PARIS -- As bad as European auto sales have been this year, they're about to get worse.
That was the verdict from industry executives gathered at the Paris auto show last week. It marks a sharp turn from other European auto shows since the onset of the continent's stubborn debt crisis. In the past, industry executives said they were feeling little effect from the troubles of insolvent southern European countries.
But at Paris, several executives said the atmosphere reminded them of the 2009 Detroit auto show -- an industry rolling out new models but knowing that it faced a miserable year.
"The European car market is a disaster," said Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. "It has plunged off a precipice that doesn't seem to have bottomed out yet. The prospects are anything but rosy."
Volkswagen AG CFO Hans Dieter Poetsch said: "It is unclear if all carmakers will survive without governmental help." And in an apparent shot at Fiat, he added: "Especially carmakers in southern Europe that produce small cars will be affected."
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn told reporters that 2013 will be "a very challenging year, especially in Europe."