AUTOS: Back into Top Gear

West Germany's auto industry, after two years of flagging sales and profits, is racing out of the valley of despair like a supercharged Porsche showing its paces in an Alpine rally. Output rose 47% in January from a year earlier, and many executives view 1976 with something akin to euphoria. Predicts Robert A. Lutz, head of German Ford: "It will be a fantastic year."

Two years ago a combination of higher oil prices, recession and consumers' lack of confidence depressed industry output 22%, to 2.8 million cars. Volkswagen lost $312.5 million, and German Ford $68.3 million; General Motors' Opel subsidiary,...

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