The CEO of Volkswagen told reporters the German automaker would be open to talking with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne about a possible merger.
“I don’t rule out that we could talk about all kinds of things,” Volkswagen’s Matthias Mueller said Tuesday, noting there are no plans for talks, and that he hasn’t had contact with Marchionne in months.
A Fiat Chrysler representative on Tuesday declined to comment.
Mueller’s remarks were made about a week after he quelled speculation about any possible merger after Marchionne said at the Geneva International Motor Show that he didn’t doubt “VW may show up and have a chat” about a merger at some time.
Marchionne has been open in the past to a search for a partner. The architect of the merger between Fiat SpA and Chrysler Group LLC pitched industry consolidation to save billions of dollars annually by shedding unnecessary duplications through a presentation called “Confessions of a Capital Junkie” with financial analysts and news media in April 2015. Overtures he made to General Motors Co. about a possible tie-up were rebuffed.
At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, Marchionne told reporters that the company was not pursing any tie-ups.
“Let’s be clear, we’re looking at nothing,” he said then. “The only thing that I do know is there’s 24 months between now and the closing of the 2018 plan. And that 2018 plan is absolutely sacred and there’s not a damn thing that I know of that will stop us from making it.”
Mueller said Tuesday that the United States remains a “core market” for the company despite its diesel emissions scandal; he said the company hopes to expand in the U.S.
He said the company’s annual news and investor conference at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, that “we are standing by our investment decisions and intend over the long term to play a significantly greater role there than today.”
The Volkswagen brand has only a small share in the U.S. market although it is important for the company’s luxury brands Porsche and Audi. It makes cars in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
U.S. authorities uncovered Volkswagen’s use of engine control software that enabled vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.
“Volkswagen needs to transform, not because everything in the past was bad, but because our industry will see more fundamental changes in the coming 10 years than over the past 100,” Mueller said Tuesday. “It was clear to me from day one that we need to seize this decisive turning point to realign Volkswagen for the future.
“There’s no question that the consequences of the diesel crisis hurt us last year, not only in financial terms... But we kept on course and put up one of our best operating performances in spite of it all.”
Staff Writer Ian Thibodeau, Bloomberg and the Associated Press contributed.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.