FRANKFURT -- Somewhere among BMW's indoor racetrack of electric cars, the bright lights of Audi's upside-down city and a Mercedes-Benz hall so large it could have swallowed Duesseldorf, Europe felt better about itself for a few minutes last week.
The product was stunning. The stands were packed. Millions of euros were spent turning the world's biennial festival of overworked pedometers and overly sore feet into a grand statement about the health of the German car industry.
Hall after hall after hall, the same message was there: Alles sehr gut.
Shanghai might be bigger by square footage, but Frankfurt is still Frankfurt.
And you have to go back three Frankfurt shows and one Lehman collapse to find the kind of optimism that was on display last week.
Don't look now, but there are hints that this European crisis might finally be coming to a crawl.
But even in a recovery, real or not, questions linger. Among the most interesting talk in flashy Frankfurt:
- Where was Chrysler-Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne and why did he cancel his appearance at the world's biggest show?
- Where would ex-Renault COO Carlos Tavares land? (Aston Martin seemed to be the hot rumor.)
- Could Microsoft really woo away Ford boss Alan Mulally, potentially disrupting Ford of Europe's plans to continue acting as one brand globally?
- Does the North American revival really have legs?
- And, more than anything, are Europeans finally ready to buy cars again?
For too long now, Europe has been left with puzzling questions. The real work in Europe still needs to be done.
Plants have to be closed. Overcapacity is still an enormous concern. And lobbying of local governments and negotiations with unions need to continue.
Is the European crisis over? Has the corner been turned? And is the light at the end of the tunnel daylight, instead of that dreaded locomotive?
For one week, everything looked promising again.