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We were once told by a top executive at Audi that Germany’s Manager Magazin is where other top executives float ideas in the form of rumor. Whether or not then this means it is a floated idea or a line on actual happenings remains to be known, but a rumor this morning out of Germany is that the Volkswagen Group is looking to acquire Fiat and Chrysler.
On the surface, this sounds a bit far fetched and incredibly hard to manage. In addition to the Volkswagen Group owned brands of Audi, Ducati, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, MAN, Scania, SEAT, Skoda and Volkswagen, this could potentially add in Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.
Why do such a thing? German automotive industry magazine AutoZeitung suggests it would be to both bolster the company’s American sales base and also give it a further foothold in commercial truck business. Could those Volkswagen Commercial, MAN and Scania trucks be sold as Rams?
Ferdinand Piech has made no secret of his interest in brands like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo in particular. A German source of this website familiar with such theories posited on Alfa, that it would be an excellent marque steeped in heritage to position similarly to SEAT. Instead of being cannibalistic with the Audi brand, it could be a more affordable lead-in that has the design flare, market draw and heritage that SEAT lacks. Looking back on the Pieschetsrieder-era Audi Brand Group with SEAT as the emotional lead-in to Audi and Lamborghini, Alfa would seem to make sense. We once argued also that Lancia might be an even more shrewd choice, but that brand has never really been discussed in such rumors that we’ve ever read.
While it’s interesting to think of future product like RS 3 based Delta Integrales, Touareg TDI-based Jeep Grand Cherokees or Maseratis based on the new Porsche developed MSB platform, how this could come to fruition would be a challenge. There seems to be no love lost between Piech and Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne. The interest in Alfa Romeo and even Ferrari manifested itself in the press, with quotes from Piech. Marchionne has very publicly denied such advances.
If they are to be believed, today’s report suggests the discussions were held above Marchionne’s head and at the investor level, namely with the Agnelli and Elkann families. However, both companies refused to comment and a later update to the Auto Zeitung report suggests the Agnelli family has very vocally stated the rumor is false.
So what of it? Could it be true? That much is hard to say. This could be very high-level back-and-forth jabbing between Piech and Marchionne, or it could have some truth. Time will tell, but should it prove true this would likely be the largest brand portfolio of one company ever. To say it would be a management challenge would be nothing short of an understatement.