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Auto industry execs optimistic but still not hiring

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Ford Motor Company
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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.