John Elkann, chairman of Fiat Chrysler, has reiterated the company’s desire to find a merger partner with one of the larger automakers.
In addition to his role at the Italian-American automaker, Elkann is also the nominated head of the powerful Agnelli clan and is the CEO of the family’s Exor investment vehicle.
Overnight, Elkann published his annual letter to shareholders in Exor, which owns around 44 percent of Fiat Chrysler (FCA). In it, Elkann noted the automaker’s successes, especially that of Jeep. FCA’s “star performer” shipped a record 1.3 million cars last year, up 21 percent on the year before.
He also reminded investors that if FCA did “something with the ‘Big Guys’, our internal analysis indicates that you could end up with annual savings close to US$10 billion ($13 billion)”.
In March 2015, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne emailed Mary Barra, his counterpart at General Motors, asking for a meeting to discuss a merger between the two automakers.
Barra and the GM board rebuffed his advances in the belief that the American automaker was better off alone.
In an unusual move for an automotive executive, Marchionne went on the record stating that a combination of the two companies would immediately save billions every year. He even floated the idea of engaging with some activist investors to force GM’s board into discussions with FCA.
In his letter, Elkann acknowledged that “there’s no doubt that mergers and integrations are hard to do and not all of them are successful”, but noted that under the guidance of Marchionne the combination of Fiat and Chrysler worked out because the amalgamation was “carried out with respect for cultures and in a rational way”.
Elkann also tried to pour some cold water on the industry’s fascination with potentially disruptive technologies, such as ride sharing apps, car sharing programmes, and autonomous vehicles.
Citing a McKinsey report, which estimates that global vehicle sales will grow from 87 million in 2015 to between 115 and 125 million by 2030, Elkann points out that even in “high disruption” scenarios 90 percent of cars will be sold to private buyers and that only 15 percent of vehicles will be completely autonomous.
The chairman finished off by warning that automakers shouldn’t fall “into the 1990 trap of ignoring [the core] business while chasing profits in other parts of the value chain”.