Times are Tough for Everyone in the auto industry, but one speaker at this year's MBS let the audience know he has faced more than his share of turmoil since a very young age.

Samir Salman, CEO of Continental AG's North American automotive group, spoke about growing up in Iraq, a nation well-acquainted with instability. His mother is German and his father, Iraqi.

“Even before Saddam Hussein came into power, Iraq was an unstable environment,” Salman recalls from the days of his youth. His family left Iraq for Germany when he was 17 just as it was sinking into political chaos.

“I would go to school, and it seemed that every day a different classmate or teacher would not be there. No explanations were offered,” Salman says.

“And questions were met with clear discomfort and then, non-responses. Even worse were the ones that would return after a while as broken people.”

His childhood experience sharpened his insights into the “factor of fear,” something many supplier executives understand all too well.

“Now I find myself, ironically, in an environment that reminds me of those times, though by no means as evil and horrific,” Salman says.

“Whatever my experience taught me is that however tough and turbulent our industry is now, this is a temporary period that we will get through,” he says.