After preaching for years about the need for a broad consolidation in the global automobile industry, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has reversed course or perhaps gotten cold feet.
Following a meeting with President Donald Trump, Marchionne told reporters that he had no interest in pursuing a possible merger with Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker and the top automaker in Europe where FCA’s European brands are facing the potential of more intense competition from combination of Opel/Vauxhall and PSA.
Once the PSA takeover of Opel/Vauxhall is completed later this year, it will be the second-largest carmaker in Europe.
“I only said that if you were the number-one automaker in Europe and somebody combines with another automaker to become the second and gets very close to your position, your very first reaction is to distance the second again,” Marchionne told reporters the speech by Trump to about 1,200 auto company employees at the fledgling American Center for Mobility on the grounds of the old historic Willow Run aircraft factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
“We are the only natural combination partner for somebody who wants to do that. If you were playing a chess board game, that’s what you would do,” said Marchionne.
Marchionne added, while he wasn’t interested in combining FCA with VW, he would be willing to listen to a pitch from Volkswagen executives.
(FCA, VW patching up differences, could see joint opportunities. Click Here for the details.)
“If he wants to come, he knows where I live,” he said. “I didn’t chase him and I have no intention of chasing him. But if I’m right on consolidation and the fact you need to build scale, we’re the natural place to go for him.
“I will not call Matthias. I have no interest,” he added.
Marchionne also said he did not know if the two families that have controls of the two companies, the Porsche/Piech family at Volkswagen or the Agnelli/Elkann family, which controls FCA, have held any kind of discussion about a merger.
(To see more about the latest big European auto news — the Opel sale, Click Here.)
Mathias Mueller, VW’s CEO, fueled speculation about a possible merger with FCA with an offhand comment to German reporters after the company’s annual press conference in Wolfsburg, Germany.
“There is no contact at this time between me and Marchionne,” Mueller stressed.
However, VW does appear willing to look at new deals in the wake of the wrenching emission scandal that has drained billions of dollars from the company’s balance sheet and undercut sizable portions of the company’s strategic plans.
(Industry must consolidate, Marchionne declares in Geneva. Click Here for more.)
Only last week, it signed agreement with India’s Tata Motors. The deal will lead to VW’s Skoda subsidiary working with Tata on new vehicles for the Indian market, which is expected to grow quickly in the years to come.