By on March 21, 2017

marchionne looking pleased

Sergio’s waiting by the phone. Waiting for someone to call him up and tell him he’s not alone. (Our apologies to Soul Asylum – Ed.)

It’s not our fault Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s corporate life resembles a game of Mystery Date. That’s just the way it is for an automaker on the prowl for a partner. After having its advances repeatedly rebuffed by General Motors, FCA has now latched onto Volkswagen as a potential suitor — but the merger dance hasn’t been a smooth one.

After some cattiness on VW’s part, it seems the eternally — and perhaps naïvely — optimistic Marchionne’s hopes are once again up. He’s anticipating a call.

“We are waiting with anticipation,” Marchionne told reporters today, according to Reuters.

It seems that Marchionne could be reading too much into comments made by Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller last week. Still, stranger things have happened. Perhaps Müller is being coy with his true intentions, playing hard to get to keep up appearances. What is certain is this past month’s weird non-courtship between FCA and VW has played out in a very rocky “Becky told me something after science class” kind of way.

After telling reporters, “I have no doubt that at the relevant time VW may show up and have a chat,” Marchionne’s advance met a cold shoulder. “We have other problems,” the VW CEO said when questioned, clearly not interested in a first date, let alone a marriage.

Both automakers face a number of issues.

VW, after taking a huge financial hit from the diesel emissions scandal, is desperately seeking to flesh out its U.S. utility vehicle lineup.

FCA, on the other hand, has struggled to wrestle down longstanding debt. Some brands, like Chrysler and Dodge, are lagging, while all available cash has been funneled towards to developing new utilities vehicles and trucks. Also, there’s still no takers on FCA’s goal of partnering up to build cheap compact cars in Mexico or elsewhere.

Last week, VW was suddenly in the mood to downplay its comments. On the topic of merger talks, Müller claimed, “I have never said I would exclude it.” (Company) size doesn’t matter to him, he added. Still, the German executive voiced his wish that his would-be Italian flame not go running to the media every time he has a thought. The media trumpeted that comment as an open line to VW HQ, and not as the backhanded remark in which Müller intended it.

Still, Marchionne may just take up that invitation. After explaining he expected the phone to ring at any time, the CEO said, “I haven’t seen Müller in 6-7 months, but I will go find him at the first opportunity.”

To be a fly on the wall of that meeting…

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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17 Comments on “Sergio Waits by the Dream Phone After VW Boss’ Remarks...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Desperado: “She looked at me from across the lunch room. I think we’re getting married!”

    Truth: She was studying the EXIT sign over your head, in case she has to make a run for it.

  • avatar

    By making all this public, I’m not sure what game Sergio is playing… I think this all makes him look rather desperate.

    Certainly, if I was a potential merger partner, I’d be spending extra time and effort on due diligence.

    • 0 avatar

      “By making all this public, I’m not sure what game Sergio is playing”

      That’s what most mystifies me. Is he just a histrionic Italian more suited to opera?

    • 0 avatar

      Wait a minute, this makes Sergio look desperate? Alright, he’s wearing his most slimming black sweater and is not covering his flabby chin with his palm for once, but desperate? Nah.
      I remember a company so desperate for relevant product that it rebadged an old domestic minivan and then used Brooke Shields to peddle it. I think they named it the Shenanagone…

  • avatar

    Sorry but FCA hasn’t been funneling all available cash into new trucks and utility vehicles. Much of their cash is going to the black hole of Alfa and their pickup is the oldest one on the market.

  • avatar

    Off topic, but I played “Mystery Date” with my girlfriend and my two daughters and I was the only one who went out on a date.

    Go figure.

  • avatar

    Why not Big Serge and Musk?
    Together they could rule the world.


  • avatar

    Thanks for the Soul Asylum quote. Now off to dig out that CD …

  • avatar

    @Steph Williams
    “VW, after taking a huge financial hit from the diesel emissions scandal, is desperately seeking to flesh out its U.S. utility vehicle lineup”

    It already has a global utility vehicle line up, no different to it’s coming US one

  • avatar

    Much like Kapernick’s, the phone just isn’t ringing…one has to wonder why Marchionne is so set on marrying up to another enterprise. Any company that gobbled FCA up wouldn’t be likely to keep him around, and maybe that’s what he’s hoping for. A nice, fat pay-out as he walks to the door…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Tata is calling. Tata needs a replacement for the Nano, the Nano 500. Beggars can’t be choosers.

    At this point any credibility that Sergio had is long gone. Stick a fork in it, it is done. FCA doesn’t have anything to offer except Jeep and possibly Ram and both of those could be bought later at a cheaper price. Sergio and the Donald are taking up too much news.

  • avatar

    I think this deal will happen. VW has been weaken led by dieselgate and is not strong in the US. They also have said in the past that they want Alfa. Alfa would easily integrate into Audi and could share lots of parts. Jeep and Ram would be great catches for VW. Chrysler could rebadge most of the SEAT/ Skoda Range and enjoy enough success to make it worthwhile. That leaves Fiat which is strong in Italy and Latin America. The simple solution might be to pull Seat out of markets where Fiat is stronger and then simply make Fiat what Vauxhall is to Opel.

    VW is also weak in the Dacia type of market and India but I guess that’s why they have just agreed a partnership with TATA Motors. Maybe they are thinking of another acquisition at a later date…

  • avatar

    Why? So the Chrysler group can financially destroy other companies by putting out junk that nobody but patriotic lunatics want to buy? If VW were smart, they wouldn’t give them a second look as they don’t need any more financial burdon. Daimler kept them on life support for a decade and all it did was contribute to Mercedes-Benz’s darker days, of rusty, problematic cars.

    If it were me, I’d close down Dodge and Chrysler, sell Jeep to GM or Ford (assuming they’d want that garbage to add to their own portfolios of horribly built cars), and sell FCA’s italian arm of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari, to a Chinese owner like Geely or Indian owner like TATA. Those two companies have done wonders for Volvo and Jaguar/Land Rover respectively.

    I swear, the Detroit auto industry is going to hell in a handbasket. First with GM pulling out of the European market, and now with FCA wanting to merge with another company. These companies are in HUGE trouble.

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