Ford: No interest in merger with Fiat Chrysler

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. reiterated that it has no interest in merging with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, after CEO Sergio Marchionne said Friday that Ford was one of three potential partners for a tie-up.

“As we consistently have said, Ford has no plan or interest other than to continue to accelerate our One Ford plan, deliver product excellence and drive innovation in every part of our business,” the company said in an emailed statement Friday to The Detroit News.

Ford’s statement follows comments made by Marchionne earlier in the day on the sidelines of the company’s shareholders’ meeting in Amsterdam. He said Ford, Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp. were the potential automakers left for a “big” auto industry merger after General Motor Co. rebuffed the company in 2015.

Spokespeople with Toyota and Volkswagen declined to comment on the matter.

Marchionne, according to Bloomberg, admitted that what he was “interested to do is not doable now,” but said “the door has never been closed” on a deal with a major competitor.

South Korean automakers such as Hyundai Motor Co. don’t appear to be on the table. Reuters reported that Marchionne said South Korean carmakers were among the big players in the industry and there would be sufficient synergies to justify a merger, but “the Koreans don’t get married.”

Marchionne’s comments came after Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann said Thursday that the company still had merger aspirations in a letter to shareholders for Exor SpA, an influential investment company through which his family holds 44 percent voting rights of Fiat Chrysler.

Elkann reiterated that the automaker could save $10 billion a year by “doing something with the ‘Big Guys.’ ”

“If you value that in perpetuity it starts to become very interesting,” he wrote in the 16-page letter prior to the automaker’s annual meeting. “But you need two to tango and most of our competitors are busy with the great opportunities that technological disruption has to offer.”

Marchionne originally pitched industry consolidation through a presentation called “Confessions of a Capital Junkie” with financial analysts and news media in April 2015.

Following Marchionne’s presentation, the automaker courted GM as a partner but was rebuffed several times, which reportedly led to plans to possibly launch a hostile takeover. That did not occur.

Eight months after the consolidation pitch, Marchionne told reporters at the Detroit auto show in January that he “abandoned,” for now, his efforts for industry consolidation to focus on achieving the automaker’s ambitious 2018 goals.

“The achievement of the plan in ’18 will create a car company that is fundamentally different than the one we are looking at today, and it will put it in position to have a different type of dialogue with people who may have been otherwise not interested,” he said on Jan. 11. “It will give us the credibility, I think, which is highly important, in being able to reopen the discussions.”

Marchionne in January said he believes consolidation remains “unavoidable.” However, he will not be leading those discussions or the company’s post-2018 plan. He said he has committed “to the achievement of the 2018 plan” but “come ’19 and later, the discussion will have to be handled by my successor.”

Fiat Chrysler shares on the New York Stock Exchange at 3:30 p.m. Friday were trading down about 1 percent to $7.50 per share.

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Detroit News Staff Writer Michael Martinez contributed.