FRANKFURT -- How bad are things on the world automotive stage? Pretty awful, right?
The U.S. is the only bright spot in a global industry filled with turmoil. At least that's how Americans tend to view the situation.
But here in Germany, things don't look so bleak.
"There is always some part of the world where you have headwinds," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW AG board member in charge of Mini and Rolls-Royce. "But Europe is doing quite well. It is recovering.
"Actually," he considered, "the world automotive industry is doing quite well, with the exception that we have a little bit less growth in China."
And Schwarzenbauer doesn't sound overly concerned about China.
"Sometimes people say it's a crisis in China," he said. "I'm sorry, it's just normalizing the growth -- getting away from the plus-20 percent growth.
"People forget -- right now it's only 4 or 5 percent growth, but that's an explosion when you are a market of 20 million cars already. So China will remain a market with big opportunities."
Masahiro Moro, Mazda Motor Corp.'s head of global sales and marketing, is wary but still wowed by the size of China's automotive industry.
"You never know about China," Moro said. "It's not a democracy and they have a different system for managing the country. But my worry is not necessarily that the Chinese automotive industry will slow down. They sell 25 million units [including commercial vehicles] and they are marching toward 30 million. It's huge."
The problem is that a slight twinge in China's economy is felt so acutely everywhere else.
"Natural resources consumption will go down, oil prices will get lower and everybody will be worried about stock prices," Moro said.
"But I believe China's government is capable of managing the situation. They did a great job when we had the world banking crisis in 2009. Their economy is just a little overcooked right now."
Nor does Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche sound alarmed after the great summer Mercedes-Benz had in China.
"We had 40 percent growth in July and 50 percent growth in August, which has not really caused us to cut back on production or in capacity," he said. "The opposite is the case.
"We're aware of the transformation in the Chinese economy and the kind of slowdown ... and the impact this has on the total auto market. But we feel very confident we will continue with double-digit growth rates for the rest of the year, and we're very optimistic about next year."
For Renault SA, which will open its first plant in China in 2016, it hardly makes a difference what the growth level is.
"We are moving from zero to a percentage of share in a market of 20 million cars," said Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
As for Nissan Motor Co., Ghosn said there will be no scaling back. But additional capacity will have to be weighed against whatever stable rate of growth emerges in the country.
"For the moment, I think there is a kind of overshoot on the Chinese market," he said. "People are worried about what's going on, saying, 'Looks like China is not going to grow again,' or something like that, which is obviously not realistic.
"Even with 5 percent growth in China, which would be very reduced compared to what we have seen in the past, there will be another 1 million cars every year."