Fiat CEO widens potential partners to VW, Ford

Tommaso Ebhardt

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.

If any transaction takes place after a vehicle-investment program is completed in 2018, "some else would have to carry it out." Marchionne, 63, plans to leave the Fiat Chrysler CEO post at the end of that year.