There is a growing concern that financial problems in Europe could cross the Atlantic and disrupt the developing U.S. auto sales recovery.
Could it happen? Nervous investors are hinting that could be the case.
Last week investor concern pushed U.S. stock exchanges into "correction" territory, with losses of at least 10 percent from 2010 highs. Economists and automakers worry that investor jitters over European debt stability and the plunging euro could translate into a slowdown at U.S. showrooms.
"It's too early to push the panic button and call a double dip [recession] -- outside of Europe, that is," said Nigel Griffiths, chief automotive economist for IHS Global Insight in London.
Last week Griffiths downgraded European auto sales forecasts, but Global Insight left U.S. forecasts unchanged at 11.8 million light vehicles this year and 13.8 million in 2011. In 2009, U.S. sales fell to a 27-year low of 10.4 million.
But Griffiths said the risks of a U.S. slowdown have increased. His new "downside scenario" if a European government and bank rescue package fails to prevent a new global recession: U.S. auto sales of 11.2 million this year and 11.7 million in 2011.
Mazda North America CEO Jim O'Sullivan said concern about liquidity and overall confidence in Europe could cause "some hesitation here in the financial system," affecting U.S. liquidity and bank lending practices.
Said O'Sullivan: "This is a very unstable situation in Europe, and we're watching it closely."
Jason Stein contributed to this report