Fiat CEO Widens Potential Partners to VW, Ford After GM Rebuff

Inside Fiat Chrysler's Merger Aspirations
  • Marchionne says preferred merger strategy `not doabale now'
  • New leadership seen completing a deal after he leaves in 2018

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne sees Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG as potential partners for a “big” auto-industry merger after General Motor Co. rebuffed his advance.

“What I was interested to do is not doable now,” but “the door has never been closed” on a deal with a major competitor, Marchionne told reporters in Amsterdam Friday as investors gathered for the annual shareholders meeting.

Chairman John Elkann renewed a push Thursday to combine Fiat Chrysler with one of the industry’s “big guys,” saying savings could top $10 billion a year. Even with developments like car sharing and self-driving vehicles, Fiat Chrysler’s counterparts should look at a merger’s benefits because the bulk of their business in coming decades will remain selling cars to individuals, he said in a letter to shareholders of his family’s Exor SpA holding company, the manufacturer’s controlling investor.

Asked whether possible partners could include the U.S., Japanese and German carmakers, Marchionne agreed and also named Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Co., though he added that “Koreans never get married.” He reiterated that GM would be the best fit, based on possible savings.

Alongside GM, other major carmakers have rejected Marchionne’s open invitation to merger talks. Ford reiterated that position on Friday, saying in an e-mailed statement that the company has “no plan or interest” besides continuing its One Ford strategy.

Marchionne himself isn’t anticipating a deal anytime soon, focusing instead on an investment program through 2018. If any transaction takes place after that, “someone else would have to carry it out,” said the 63-year-old executive, who plans to leave the Fiat Chrysler CEO post at the end of that year.

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