HANS GREIMEL

Could Suzuki be the next subject of Marchionne vs. VW?

Automotive News Europe | October 3, 2012 06:01 CET

TOKYO -- It's no secret that VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech wants to prize Alfa Romeo away from Sergio Marchionne's Fiat Group.

Marchionne won't let it happen, but he may just be angling to snag his own piece of Piech's Volkswagen turf. The apparent object of Sergio's desire: VW's estranged Japanese partner Suzuki Motor Corp.

In an interview with Japan's Nikkei business daily, Marchionne said he wants to strengthen ties between Fiat and Suzuki.

Fiat already sources its Sedici small crossover from Suzuki.

And it supplies Suzuki with diesel engines. The latter deal helped drive a wedge between Suzuki and VW, after VW took a 19.9 percent stake in Suzuki to become Suzuki's top shareholder.

Suzuki wants out of its capital alliance with VW. But VW has no intention -- publicly at least -- of letting Suzuki go.

Enter Marchionne. He said he wants an extended partnership to cut costs and aims to do "whatever possible" to strengthen ties with Suzuki, according to the Nikkei. The comments echoed similar statements Marchionne has made about Suzuki and Mazda.

It's ironic that VW and Fiat are looking over each other's fence at what the other clasps so tight. VW won't let Suzuki off the hook, but Fiat is courting from afar. At the same time, Fiat won't part with Alfa, but VW pines away anyhow.

The tensions even boiled over with a war of words in Paris last week between Marchionne and VW execs over these and other political issues. They ended up publicly making nice last Friday.

But it's an interesting dynamic. And with Marchionne stirring the pot at Suzuki, yet another chapter in the tug of war between Marchionne and VW could be brewing.

Hans Greimel is Asia editor for Automotive News.Hans Greimel is Asia editor for Automotive News.

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