Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has made little secret of his desire to merge with another major automaker due to the significant changes facing the auto industry and the steep capital costs those changes entail.
Automakers Marchionne has courted include Ford, General Motors, Toyota and the Volkswagen Group, though so far he’s been rebuffed on every occasion. That could be about to change, however.
VW CEO Matthias Müller at a press conference on Tuesday said he was open to discussing the matter, Reuters reports.
“I am not ruling out a conversation,” Müller is quoted as saying. “It would be very helpful if Mr. Marchionne were to communicate his considerations to me.”
This is in stark contrast to Müller’s claim only a week ago that VW was “not ready for talks about anything.”
A possible reason for Müller’s sudden openness could be due to the steep costs surrounding VW’s diesel scandal. VW has already pledged to pay over $25 billion in fines and buyback programs.
Another reason could be concerns of a new threat from PSA Group. With last week’s announcement that it is acquiring Opel from GM, PSA is on track to become the second biggest automaker in Europe after VW. The acquisition is expected to strengthen Opel and PSA’s Peugeot, DS and Citroën brands through economies of scale and other synergies.
With some or all of FCA brands in the hands of VW, the German automaker would finally have a strong presence in North America, in particular with FCA’s Jeep and Ram brands.