Économie

Will Fiat Chrysler be bought by the Chinese?

Will Fiat Chrysler be bought by the Chinese?

CLOSE In today’s political environment, a Fiat Chrysler, the Italian-American automaker, a Chinese company seems far-fetched. But analysts say it could happen. Here’s why: USA TODAY Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO, AFP / Getty Images) Nearly a decade after he helped rescue Detroit’s third-largest automaker from liquidation with the help of a government bailout, Sergio Marchionne has made Fiat Chrysler healthier, wealthier and wiser. But despite a return to profitability and a vastly improved product lineup – not to mention major U.S. investments that have drawn President Trump’s praise – the Italian-American automaker’s future is shrouded in uncertainty again. The topic is sure to surface as Marchionne is set to meet with reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Fuel economy regulations and the advent of self-driving vehicles are more important than self-sufficiency. Marchionne has been looking for a deal with the automaker for years – but it’s not easy to find a deal with crosstown rival General Motors, for example, have been rebuffed. For the famously maverick and visionary CEO to cement his legacy of the industry’s great turnaround artists and still meet his goal of retiring after 2018, he may have found a willing suitor. That could mean putting Fiat Chrysler ‘s iconic American brands – including the family jewel, Jeep – into the hands of a Chinese automaker , risking a showdown with Trump amid political consternation over U.S.-China trade. more: Fiat Chrysler shares surge 22%; company will not comment on more: Chinese automaker is reportedly bids for Fiat Chrysler more: Chinese automaker sets sights on Jeep acquisition With the Detroit auto show opening this week, the pressure is mounting on Marchionne to identify the company’s next move or delay his longstanding plan to step aside. Sanford Bernstein auto analyst Max Warburton, one of the industry’s most closely watched experts, predicted that Marchionne might have to stick around. “Can he really let go?” Warburton said in a note to investors. “There’s no real buyer for FCA and no internal successor.” Warburton suggests that Fiat Chrysler could bring in an outsider as CEO but that Marchionne could stay on “as a very hands-on” executive chairman. autoplay Show Thumbnails Show Captions Last Slide Next Slide The automaker has not said who will succeed Marchionne, but he has said it will be someone from inside the company. Contenders could include Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer, Mike Manley Jeep and Ram Chief and Alfredo Altavilla, Chief Operating Officer for Europe, Africa and Middle East. The company declined to comment. Chinese future? But it will be tough to make the transition if the company’s fate has not been decided. In 2017, Chinese automaker Great Wall reportedly released interest in acquiring Jeep, but Fiat Chrysler said at the time that no talks had occurred between the two. Also last year, Chinese automaker Guangzhou Automobile Group, GAC gold, which already makes Jeep and Fiat brand vehicles in China through a joint venture, said it is interested in deepening its links to Fiat Chrysler as it eyes the U.S. market. GAC executives are set to wait for the auto show in Detroit, possibly sparking additional speculation about the company’s American ambitions. For Fiat Chrysler, a sale to a Chinese buyer could generate a political firestorm. Selling Jeep, which traces its lineage to the Army jeeps that won World War II, to the Chinese might draw the ire of Washington, especially in light of Trump’s tough talk on vehicles made in foreign markets but sold in the U.S. But Chinese ownership is not necessarily a bad thing. Volvo has been several years ago to Chinese automaker Geely, providing the backing needed for the Swedish automaker to thrive internationally. “With the right parent company or deep pockets, you can do a lot of really great things, and you can point to an example of what you can do with a Chinese owner,” AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan said. Sullivan noted that the usually quotable Marchionne has “been very quiet for a while now, which is not normal” for him. “If there is something in the works, he may not be able to comment on it.” The state of affairs Still, Jeep and Ram from the company’s stable, the Dodge, Chrysler and Fiat. After stoking speculation with merger talk for years, Marchionne said in October that He said it would be wrong to assume the automaker’s future “hinges on the ability to do a deal” because “it will continue to make money.” To be sure, the picture for Chrysler is indeed rosy. Despite an 8.6% drop in U.S. sales in 2017 – Fiat Chrysler’s U.S.-traded stock rose more than 140% from the beginning of 2017 through Thursday. That meteoric rise included a sharp jump in the first week of January , prompting speculation that a potential acquirer could be buying shares. The company did not comment on the possibility. But the automaker’s finances have also been looked at promising. Its third-quarter profit jumped 50% over the year-earlier period, and the company is rolling out new SUVs and trucks at the Detroit auto show, including profit-beasts such as a refreshed Jeep Cherokee and a new Ram pickup. On Thursday, the company announced plans to spend $ 1 billion to move production of heavy-duty trucks to the Warren Truck Plant outside Detroit, adding 2,500 jobs in the process. The announcement includes the promise of $ 2,000 bonuses for all employees in the U.S., except for senior leadership, after the new U.S. tax law gives the automaker a financial boost. Fiat Chrysler pared its compact and midsize the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. But it faces the big costs of developing and selling cars that it now lacks to meet tougher fuel-economy standards. Despite talk that Trump will loosen U.S. fuel-economy rules, Kelley Blue Book analyst Rebecca Lindland said Fiat Chrysler can not count on it. The standards are unlikely to change dramatically, “Lindland said. Self-driving vehicles Also, the industry is expected to transition to a large number of competitors in the market. For now, Marchionne has chosen to strike a partnership with a trainer. Analysts think Marchionne may leverage Fiat Chrysler’s stronger financial position to work a deal. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas predicted that 2018 might be the first year of the company’s profitability “achieves its full potential, setting the stage for potential strategic actions.” Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @ NathanBomey . Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2EBoGHV

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