Detroit Auto Show: Confidence Reigns

DETROIT (TheStreet) -- The Detroit Auto Show underscored a key fact for the U.S. economy: one of the country's most important industries is in a fully-fired recovery mode.

While the course of the economy and the markets are of course impossible to predict, it is equally impossible not to be swayed by the auto industry's optimism.

"It's pretty clear that a feeling of confidence is coming back to the industry," said Ford ( F) CFO Louis Booth, in an interview with TheStreet.

Meanwhile, GM ( GM) CFO Chris Liddell told reporters that the company wants to reduce its debt to zero and match pension asset income to pension asset liabilities, eliminating a drag on the company's value.

Liddell made clear his awareness that, in an intensely cyclical business, the current recovery is the time to buttress the recently-bankrupt company for the next downturn. "We're in an upswing now and we'll have a downswing," he said, His goals, he said, are to reduce GM's risk profile; to take advantage of strong market positions around the world, particularly in emerging markets, and to maintain an acceptable cost structure. "This can't be a one-off, bankruptcy induced" moment of prosperity for GM, he said.

>>4 Top Rollouts at the Detroit Auto Show

Meanwhile, Jim Lentz, president of Toyota ( TM) Motor Sales USA, said Toyota has a slightly less rosy view than Ford and GM, due to continued high unemployment and a weak housing market. Speaking to the Automotive News World Congress, Lentz said Toyota expects U.S. light vehicle sales to rise by about 9% to 12.5 million units, at the low end of industry estimates.

"For the first half of the year, we do see the U.S. economy improving, but at a slower rate than we would like or many analysts expect," Lentz said. "We expect a better year with the prospect of continuous improvement into 2012 and beyond."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Detroit .

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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