Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) boss Sergio Marchionne has put to bed speculation that Jeep could be sold off to raise money or that the whole group could be sold to a Chinese manufacturer such as GAC.
“We have no intention of breaking up the company or giving it to the Chinese,” Sergio Marchionne, whose company builds cars in China with GAC, confirmed at the Detroit motor show.
“We have a very good partner in GAC. They have global ambitions, they want to come to the US and we're talking to them about if and how they can accomplish that. None of that is designed to impact on the independence of FCA.”
Marchionne, who will retire from his position in 2019, went on to confirm the importance of strong brands in a potential future of autonomous and electrified vehicles. He stressed that vehicles risked being reduced to 'commodity' status without the appeal of strong brands like Alfa Romeo or Maserati.
He added that the success of Alfa Romeo’s renaissance, which he said remained in the “nursery” phase, was crucial to the technical credibility of Maserati going forward.
One element of FCA that's likely to be divested from the group, however, is automotive components supplier Magneti Marelli, with a sale to FCA shareholders possible by the end of the year, according to Marchionne.
More generally, the charismatic CEO restated his reluctance to make the kind of ambitious pronouncements on EVs and driverless cars that have been made by competitors such as Ford, General Motors and Nissan.
He said that hybrids and EVs will inevitably become 'mandatory' in a post-Dieselgate Europe, though, due to the stringent punishments that car makers will face for missing fleet-average CO2 emissions targets.
“We will remain technology-neutral to meet regulatory demands,” Marchionne said, noting that diesel still had its place in meeting emissions goals. “I don’t know anyone who’s making money out of selling electric vehicles and I don’t think we’ve answered the CO2 issue with electric. We need to be realistic about what’s going on. It will eventually go in that direction, it will just take a lot longer than people think. [Talk of] electrification is not outlandish, but it's premature.”
By 1 June this year – which will mark the 14th anniversary of Marchionne taking charge of Fiat and eight years in charge of the unified FCA – the group expects to be debt-free and its plan for the years to 2022 will be announced. Soon after, the FCA board will reveal the identity of his successor.