Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne says that the economic recovery has started, and he expects Europe's car markets to start growing again at the end of this year.
"The recovery process has started. The worst of the global financial crisis is over, but the consequences remain," Marchionne said. "After the storm is over, you can start cleaning up."
Marchionne's remarks will surprise industry analysts, because they come just three months after he said he was gloomy about the car industry's future.
However, he said that the US economy will begin to grow again in the second half of 2009, with Europe's recovery beginning to kick in in the final quarter of this year.
"Europe will be slower. The first signs will start to appear at the very end of this year," Marchionne said. “In Europe I am worried about national protectionism, particularly on the industry side, which slows the recovery process.”
Marchionne is basing his prediction for the US recovery on what he has seen and heard during high-level meetings in Washington.
"I had the chance to talk twice with the US President's automotive task force at the Treasury Department and I saw a strong determination to find feasible solutions," Marchionne said.