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How do you say “Fiat Chrysler” in China?

by Bill Cawthon on

Early this morning, Larry Vellequette broke a story in Automotive News about a possible purchase of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles by a Chinese automaker.

According to Vellequette’s article, at least one offer has been made offering slightly more than market value, which is currently at $35.49 billion. The offer was rejected by Fiat Chrysler as being too low.

CEO Sergio Marchionne has long stated his desire for a merger, but  the recent interest from Chinese companies stems from pressure from their own Chinese government, which wants more growth through foreign acquisitions.

Rumors of Exor, the family-controlled holding company that dominates FCA, wanting to get out of the mass market auto industry have been floating around for years.

Among the potential buyers cited are Great Wall Motors, which sold over a million vehicles worldwide in 2016. There is some irony: in 2008, Fiat sued Great Wall for copying its Fiat Panda. A court in Italy agreed, but a Chinese court had a different opinion.

Other potential bidders include Zhejiang Geely, which already owns Volvo and the London Taxi Company, Dongfeng Motor, and Guangzhou Automobile Group, which is FCA’s joint-venture partner in China.

One source claims that any sale would focus on Jeep and Ram, but would include Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat. Alfa Romeo and Maserati would be spun off, as Ferrari was. The end result will likely not result in wholesale layoffs or factory closures; Volvo saw a massive influx of investment, and while production began in China, Swedish factories and engineering facilities remained open.

FCA and the Chinese companies are not making any comments, but there have been reports of meetings in Auburn Hills and China. Plant workers have told Allpar of groups of Chinese people touring the plants for over a year, though this may have been part of the “show and tell” routine for selling Comau robotics.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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