GENEVA -- The struggling European auto industry will bounce back next year. Or maybe in 2016. Or maybe later.
It depends on whom you talk to among the executives here coping with depressed sales and the uncertain government response to Europe's economic crisis.
In interviews at the Geneva auto show, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne represented the optimistic end of the spectrum. "My expectation is that we will see a recovery in 2014 in some fashion once Europe gets its act together," he said.
On the other hand, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has a dour view: "I don't think anybody is really foreseeing the pickup of the European market in the next two or three years. The only question is: Is it going to be bad or very bad?"
The main reason, Ghosn said during a press event here, "is the uncertainty that we see in Europe" about the euro, the structure of the European Union and -- especially -- government austerity policies. Stringent cutbacks in government programs and benefits in hard-hit southern European countries have stirred social unrest, he noted.
"This uncertainty around the plan to reduce the deficit and bring back Europe to a normal track of financial health -- this is, in my opinion, what is holding back the European market," Ghosn said.
On that point, he and Marchionne agree. Marchionne says automakers are waiting for a strong European Union response to the debt crisis.
"A lot of it depends on the political resolve of Europeans to find a way out of the quagmire that Europe finds itself in," Marchionne said. "I think there is a better than 50 percent chance that the collective will of Europe will be exercised to re-create conditions for growth."
"I do not think that three to five years is the term. I think that 2013 will be tough, and I suspect that if there was a resolution -- a European growth agenda -- that there will be a recovery of the markets already in 2014."