Goldman Sachs now forecasts a shallower recession for the euro zone, admitting it underestimated how much the ECB's 3-year loans, and less stringent collateral rules would ease concerns over bank funding and peripheral sovereign debt markets.
"We thought that the weakness of economic activity seen in Q4 2011 would intensify at the turn of the year," it wrote last month. The evidence "suggests otherwise."
German car dealer Paul Ebbinghaus immediately noticed an impact on his business after policymakers in Europe seemed to have built a firewall strong enough to protect Italy and Spain from the worst fallout of Greece's debt crisis.
"New orders were truly horrible in November and December, when no one knew whether the euro would still exist in the future," the owner of 7 showrooms in and around the industrial city of Dortmund told Reuters.
"But ever since mid-January, when the euro crisis no longer always made headlines on the 8 o'clock news, business has bounced back to last year's levels."
Jonathon Poskitt, sales forecaster at LMC Automotive, agreed that the improved liquidity at banks was at the least a positive start, even if the ECB's efforts to kickstart the economy were not yet feeding through to increased consumer credit.
"Only a few weeks ago risks were skewed more to the downside, whereas things are now looking more positive," he said. "We're still cautious though, since hopes that we were out of the woods have repeatedly proven false in the past."
South Korean carmaker Hyundai isn't convinced, and wants to slash inventory and meet its market share targets early to shield itself from any possible dangers down the road.
"It's such a recent phenomenon. My planning for the year is still where it was in January, which is to make a fast start and get ahead of the game," said Allan Rushforth, Senior Vice President of Hyundai Motor Europe, in an interview.
Ebbinghaus, whose business makes about 100 million euros in annual revenue selling some 5,000 new and used cars, readily admits that Germany is a rare bright spot and what's good for the consumer is not always good for dealers or carmakers.
"What worries me are the high inventories. New cars intended for southern Europe are showing up here in Germany since it is the last healthy market left and that's driving down prices."
One manifestation has been a continued high number of new car registered by dealerships and manufacturers directly -- often seen as a last resort to meet quarterly sales targets. Germany's ZDK federation for motor trade has estimated this is double the level it considers healthy.
Research firm Markit estimates output in the auto industry contracted further last month compared to January, making it the fifth worst performing sector out of 22 in the euro zone.
A poisonous brew of high public and private sector debt, austerity, record unemployment and falling disposable income led Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to warn last week that Europe was at a "critical juncture", with its car market poised to stagnate for three years under even his most optimistic forecast.