Fiat Chrysler boss shakes up global car business

Fiat Chrysler boss shakes up global car business

Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors, received a lengthy and unusual email back in March from one of her direct competitors, Sergio Marchionne.

Ms. Barra had never met Mr. Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. And she was in no way expecting their first contact to be an offer to discuss a potential blockbuster of a merger.

The email, according to two people familiar with it, laid out in detail how global car makers needed to consolidate to save money and suggested that a combination of GM and Fiat Chrysler could cut billions of dollars in costs and create an automotive superpower.

His analysis did not interest Ms. Barra or other GM executives and board members. Instead, Mr. Marchionne’s request for a meeting on the subject was turned down, according to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It was a rare rejection for Mr. Marchionne, the mastermind behind the merger between the Italian automaker Fiat and Chrysler, the American car company that required a government bailout to survive the last recession.

Mr. Marchionne, however, is not one to be put off by rejection.

A month later, on April 29, in a routine analyst conference call, he doubled down.

Instead of following the usual script, in which chief executives discuss the current state of their operations, Mr. Marchionne stunned the Wall Street analysts by devoting the entire call to his sudden and intense appeal to automakers to merge.


“I think it is absolutely clear that the amount of capital waste that’s going on in this industry is something that certainly requires remedy,” he said. “A remedy in our view is through consolidation.”


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