Toyota North America CEO: Not interested in FCA merger

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

York Township — Toyota Motor Corp. North America CEO Jim Lentz on Thursday said the Japanese automaker has not been contacted by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV about potential mergers, and is not interested in consolidation with other automakers.

Jim Lentz, President  and CEO Toyota Motor Sales, USA.

"It's something we would not be interested in," Lentz told reporters in a roundtable ahead of a groundbreaking at the Toyota Technical Center. "At 10 million (vehicles) we have enough scale right now to do what we need to do. There really would be no advantage for us."

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has pushed hard recently for consolidation in the industry, reaching out via email to General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra to ask about merging. Lentz said he doesn't see the benefits, especially after Ford Motor Co. avoided bankruptcy by shedding excess brands like Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin and focusing on a simplified product portfolio.

"To me, a large OEM today taking on Chrysler is contrary to what was very successful for Ford," Lentz said. "FCA has a very strong Jeep brand, and especially today with fuel prices, it's a great brand to have … but it really isn't a fit for what we need at Toyota."

Ford has also said it isn't interested merging with FCA.

Rendering of the $126 million expansion of Toyota’s Technical Center, a move first announced late last year.

Last week at an event with investors, Ford chief financial officer Bob Shanks said while Ford isn't looking for any mergers, he thinks there's room for scale in the auto industry with possible consolidation among suppliers and powertrain and technology partnerships with other automakers.

"We're not a suitor for FCA," he said at a recent roundtable discussion with investors. "We don't see that type of opportunity as one that applies to us."

Shanks said, to his knowledge, Marchionne hasn't directly reached out to Ford about a deal.

"We have a lot of experience with mergers …We're not babes in the woods," he said. "Based on that experience, for us that doesn't seem to be where we'd want to go. We want to have a more forward-looking perspective in terms of what's happening in the industry … It doesn't seem to be that it would be doubling down on the past."

Shanks added Ford would be open to working with FCA or any other automaker on small-scale partnerships "if it would make sense."

Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, said Marchionne likely will find a partner, but it won't be one of the larger automakers.

"It wouldn't surprise me if FCA finds another automaker to partner with," he said. "Honestly, I think most other large automakers feel they have enough challenges to manage.

"Poor Sergio; always a bridesmaid, never a bride."

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