Reports that a Chinese automaker had made an offer on the Fiat Chrysler business quickly evolved this week into a more specific discussion over the Jeep brand – but the Italian-American company says no such talks have occurred.
According to industry journal Automotive News and business paper Reuters, the Chinese company behind the offer is one familiar to Australian buyers: Great Wall Motors.
The titles cite unnamed insiders, who claim executives for Fiat Chrysler had flown to China for talks with Great Wall, although other sources reportedly suggested Dongfeng Motor Corp, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group or Guangzhou Automobile Group – the latter being an existing partner to FCA – had also shown interest.
Reuters even has a quote to back up its report, with a Great Wall spokesperson telling the paper: “With respect to this case, we currently have an intention to acquire. We are interested in (FCA).”
Of course, intent does not mean that talks have indeed occurred, and according to FCA, they most certainly have not.
“In response to market rumours regarding a potential interest of Great Wall Motors in the Jeep brand, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, confirmed that it has not been approached by Great Wall Motors in connection with the Jeep brand or any other matter relating to its business,” the company said in a statement today.
Still, a first date may not be far away, with Automotive News quoting Great wall’s president, Wang Fengying, directly. He told the journal his company is “connecting with FCA”.
Shortly after, spokesperson Xu Hui said that while Great Wall has made no secret of its interest, there has not yet been official contact.
“We are deeply interested in the Jeep brand and have paid close attention to it for a long time…Our strategic goal is to become the world’s largest SUV maker,” he added.
“Acquiring Jeep, a global SUV brand, would enable us to achieve our goal sooner and better.”
If Fiat Chrysler were to confirm its interest in selling the Jeep brand – comfortably its best-performing marque – Great Wall could even be outplayed by an established western car maker. GM, for one, might like to replace the shuttered Hummer brand with the even more revered Jeep badge.
Outside of American players, the Volkswagen Group could show interest, and the wealthy Tata and Mahindra companies of India would also be potential contenders.
FCA has made Jeep a valuable proposition since taking the brand over in 2009, increasing its global sales from around 500,000 at that time to nearly 1.5 million by 2016. The company expects to sell 2 million vehicles globally in 2018.