Bringing to mind the globally reported telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne has told reporters he’s still hasn’t received a call from Volkswagen chief Matthias Mueller to set-up talks on a possible merger between the two automotive industry giants.
Big picture, there are benefits to be had in such a merger but there is a massive gulf between the two brands - philosophical, engineering and cultural just for starters – and at this stage the German and Italian CEOs resemble two heavyweight boxers circling each other early in Round One, sizing each other up before one lands the first blow.
It was Marchionne (pictured, top of page) who first mooted a possible Fiat Chrysler-Volkswagen Group tie-up earlier this month following the announcement of PSA’s purchase of Opel and Vauxhall (the combined company now the number two automotive conglomerate in Europe). At the time Marchionne suggested Fiat Chrysler presented the only merger option for Volkswagen should the Germans seek to strengthen their market leadership over the PSA-Opel-Vauxhall combination.
However Marchionne seemed to have changed his mind only a few days later when he emerged from a meeting between North American vehicle manufactures and President Trump, telling reporters he had “zero interest” in a merger with the Volkswagen Group.
And speaking at Volkswagen’s annual press briefing at head office in Wolfsburg, Germany on 14 March, Mueller (above) told reporters: “There is no contact at this time between me and Marchionne.”
But speaking to German media following that briefing, Mueller said: “I am not ruling out a conversation. “It would be very helpful if Mr Marchionne were to communicate his considerations to me and not just to you. I am pretty confident about the future of Volkswagen with or without Marchionne.”
Now Automotive News suggests it is Marchionne who is checking his telephone for signs of a call from Germany.
“We are waiting with anticipation,” Marchionne told the U.S. publication. “There are four or five of us (big brand automotive CEOs) at the global level, if something needs to be done, it will be done. I haven’t seen Mueller in six or seven months, but I will go find him at the first opportunity.”
In Australian football terms, Volkswagen-Fiat-Chrysler is akin to Parramatta merging with the Broncos or Collingwood merging with Carlton…but mere weeks ago the thought of GM selling Opel and Vauxhall to PSA would have been scoffed-at. Watch this space.