FRANKFURT (AP) — The world's carmakers showed off the next generation of cleaner, smaller, and higher-mileage vehicles at the Frankfurt auto show Tuesday, but all the thumping sounds systems, slick videos and glossy concept cars could not obscure the anxiety about Europe's financial crisis.
The industry's fortunes have largely turned around since a recession emerged from the 2007-2009 financial crisis. But many insiders are keeping close watch on fallout from Europe's debt crisis and worries about the U.S. economy — and hoping political leaders quickly grasp solutions.
There are concerns that the recent stock market turmoil could dent consumer confidence or that a debt default by Greece could shake the banks business relies on.
Some executives urged a firmer response from Europe. Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opens the show to the public Thursday, to step up.
"I think she needs to be part of a permanent solution to this problem," Marchionne told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a Fiat presentation, referring to the leader of the European Union's largest economy. "She needs to force a fundamental change in the system."
Fears of possible government debt defaults are threatening to engulf Fiat's key market of Italy and are sapping buyers' confidence. Auto sales there are forecast at around 1.8 million this year, the lowest level since 1983.
"My request to the politicians: Even if the medicine is painful — and there's a lot of painful medicine out there — we need to apply it quickly and robustly so we can have a sustainable base not just for the car business," said Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell.
Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told the AP he thinks there is "enough common sense and political will to avoid Armageddon ... like in 2008," during the financial crisis. "But it still could happen," he said.
This year's 64th International Motor Show in Frankfurt is nevertheless more cheerful than its 2009 predecessor, which took place during the recession. Organizers say 1,007 exhibitors have signed up — up from 781 last time. German car makers like BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Porsche have put up strong profits, thanks in part to sales in fast-growing emerging markets that for now have made up for weaker growth at home in Europe.