Fiat Chrysler CEO approached GM about a merger, was rebuffed: NYT

By Reuters

May 24, 2015 05:31 AM EDT

As part of his quest for a mega merger, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne sent an email to General Motors Co Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra in March suggesting combining the automakers but was rebuffed, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Quoting two people with knowledge of the email, the Times said it detailed how global carmakers needed to consolidate to save money and suggested a merged GM and Fiat Chrysler would cut billions of dollars in costs and create an automotive giant.

Reuters first reported on April 13 that Marchionne, who leads the world's seventh-largest carmaker, was contemplating a super merger, possibly in the United States, to plug his company's weaknesses and cement his legacy before stepping down in early 2019.

The New York Times said the idea of a merger did not interest Barra or any other G.M. executives.

"Instead, Mr. Marchionne's request for a meeting on the subject was flatly turned down," the Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the end of April, Marchionne publicly made a plea for shrinking the number of players in the global auto industry as his company reported lower-than-expected first-quarter results.

Barra said on May 4 she had not held talks with Marchionne and that GM would continue to follow its own plan regarding investing in product development.

During his presentation on April 29, Marchionne said that if traditional automakers ignored his call, he might discuss a deal with Silicon Valley companies, including Google Inc or Apple Inc, that are looking at ways to offer alternatives to traditional cars or car ownership.

Marchionne said on May 9 while in Canada that he had met with the heads of Tesla Motors Inc and Apple Inc during a recent trip to California but declined to elaborate.

Analysts have speculated Google or Apple could turn to an existing automaker or supplier to assemble vehicles as a contractor.

Fiat Chrysler has one of the highest debt levels in the industry and barely breaks even in Europe. Analysts say it is expected to burn cash for years to revamp its neglected Alfa Romeo brand, and may struggle to find a partner.

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