With Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne – a frequent vocal proponent of the opportunities presented by merging with another global automaker – set to retire a year from now, pundits are looking to what lies ahead for the company. Already, FCA has confirmed plans to spin off its Magneti Marelli parts business, much as it did with its Ferrari sportscar marque and CNH Industrial commercial and industrial vehicle company, but locking in a major global automaker for a wholesale merger has, so far, proved elusive.
Of course, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles wasn’t always as attractive a potential merger partner as it is today, and we have Marchionne to thank for much of that. “This is clearly the end of an era and maybe more, as Marchionne is not just the mastermind behind FCA, he is FCA,” Bocconi University Professor and former Fiat Archives head Giuseppe Berta told Bloomberg. “After he is gone, FCA will have to change, and this opens room for a big transformational deal.”
Sergio Marchionne’s exit could pave the way for FCA to consolidate with another global automotive powerhouse, Bloomberg suggests, and that’s especially true if the CEO makes good on his final big goal as head of the company: eliminating €2.4 billion in industrial debt by June. That same month, he’ll reveal FCA’s next five-year business plan to the world, which will take the company through 2022. There are several potential merger partners that FCA could conceivably end up with, spread out all across the globe.
Ford Motor Company
Marchionne was pretty dead-set on a merger with General Motors around three years ago, but GM appeared to have minimal interest. Now, Ford Motor Company seems to be the better fit, according to Bloomberg, as both are family-owned, and both would have the opportunity to “synergize” in high-volume market areas like pickup trucks and crossovers.
A merger with Germany’s Volkswagen could prove mutually beneficial, as it’d give the German carmaker greater reach in the North American market, while FCA stands to benefit from the massive pool of resources had by the world’s third-largest automaker by volume. Last year, the company was said to be poring over FCA’s books, and declined to rule out the possibility of a merger. Bloomberg feels a merger “could come too soon,” however, as Volkswagen is still dealing with the fallout from its diesel emissions cheating scandal.
PSA Peugeot-Citroën is another European possible partner, and one that seems open to growing; just last year, the French automaker purchased GM’s German subsidiary, Opel. However, a PSA spokesperson told Bloomberg that a merger wasn’t possible because of Europe’s antitrust laws.
There have been murmurings of a number of different Chinese automakers possibly being interested in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, including China’s Great Wall Motors, Guangzhou Automobile Group, Dongfeng Motor, and Geely. Geely even reportedly attempted to buy the company, although all of the companies but for Great Wall today say they’re not interested. However, a deal could be very attractive for any one of the Chinese automakers, as it’d give them instant access to the United States – the world’s No. 2 automotive market by volume – and control of FCA’s coveted Jeep brand.
At the Geneva Motor Show in March, Marchionne even reportedly said he wouldn’t necessarily oppose Chinese investment, even if it would be an unpopular move.
Finally, as of September, 2017, South Korea’s Hyundai was reportedly very interested in merging with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which would create the world’s largest automaker by sales – even bigger than the recently-formed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.