PARIS -- With new-car sales in Europe back on track the industry appears to be shrugging off some of its anxiety about Brexit, the decision by UK voters in June to exit from the European Union.
At least for the moment.
Industry leaders at the Paris auto show reported that business is booming in Europe, a welcome relief after years of depressed sales. But they remain wary of what will come from the UK's withdrawal from the business-friendly, tariff-free world of the EU in the next two years.
General Motors Europe President Karl-Thomas Neumann said the UK market has been strong for GM. The Brexit vote result, he said, will knock $400 million off the European unit's earnings this year.
"I am worried," Neumann admitted, "because it impacts us big-time. Every fourth car of ours is sold as a Vauxhall in Britain, and the immediate effect we have is the collapse of the pound."
A possible rise in tariffs between European trading partners is the auto industry's main concern, he said. "Tariffs would be a very difficult situation because we export cars from the UK and we import a lot of parts into the UK," Neumann said. "The free traffic of goods is a major assumption within our business model."
Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, echoed the concern.
"What we hope, and what we would encourage is that a free trade environment, a free tariff environment, is maintained," Robertson said at the show. "We equally would not like to see a different set of automotive legislation in the UK to what we have in Europe."
BMW is also concerned that the UK's departure might complicate the flow of people within the industry. Like other automakers, BMW regularly moves employees back and forth across borders, which could become more complicated in a post-Brexit Europe.
It is to everyone's advantage -- in the UK and across Europe -- to find a solution, he said.
The anxiety comes at an unfortunate time for the world's automakers. Things are otherwise looking rosier than ever in Europe, with sales banging on all cylinders.
Numerous automakers chalked up double-digit European sales increases for the first eight months of this year. And new-vehicle registrations in several individual European countries are also running in double digits.