European automakers: New year, same old troubles

Trouble in Europe means local automakers are starting 2013 with a whimper instead of a bang.

Happy New Year
european automakers

In less than 72 hours, the attention of the automotive world will laser in on Detroit, scene of the North American International Auto Show. There, the car world's top executives will unveil exciting new models, make hopeful projections about market share that collectively add up to more than 100%, and hope that no one remembers their failed forecasts from a year ago.

The shift in focus is welcome in Western Europe, where fortunes are sharply divided as recent events have ricocheted between tragedy and farce. Mired in a deep recession and burdened with overcapacity, automakers in France are frantically trying to stop their bleeding, while some of their German counterparts seem to skip easily from triumph to triumph. Adding an unexpected note of folly to the New Year's events was the jail sentence handed down to a former top Ford executive accused of hiding a multimillion dollar fortune from his ex-wife.

Here are some of the lowlights -- and a couple highlights for good measure.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 17 2013 01:26 PM ET
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