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Auto industry execs optimistic but still not hiring

Ford Motor Company

Consumers aren't the only folks to get scared and pull tight the purse strings during (and after) deep recessions.

Auto industry executives do it, too.

A survey by EY (formerly Ernst and Young) found that despite a dramatic increase in optimism about the economy, many auto industry executives say they're delaying big investments in acquisitions, equipment, and jobs.

52% in the most recent EY survey said the economy is improving - up from 22% just six months ago.

"I think a lot of that (hesitation) is because of what the companies have been through," says EY's Mike Hanley.   "They're taking much more cautious approaches than you really might expect -- given that you have this increased confidence and credit availability."

Still, Hanley thinks many companies have reached a tipping point.

"There's been a real discipline about not adding jobs, not adding costs to the organization over the last couple of years.  And now you're getting to a point where you really need to in order to meet the increased demand in the marketplace."

Another sign of increased optimism is where auto industry executives are turning their attention:  developing regions including China, India, and South America - where last year most investments were in the U.S. and Germany.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.