After 93 years, a GM-PSA merger?
Durant: Almost got the deal done in 1919
General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen are exploring a merger of Opel/Vauxhall and PSA's automotive operations, according to press reports. Thus GM may finally get a stake in a French automaker -- a mere 93 years after it first considered doing so.
In 1919, GM founder Billy Durant thought of securing a European production base for his company. Andre Citroen was interested in selling his company, so Durant sent a handful of executives to France to negotiate a half-interest. Alfred Sloan, one of the executives sent over, told the story in his landmark autobiography, My Years with General Motors.
To do the deal, the GM men decided that either Sloan or another top executive -- a guy by the name of Walter Chrysler -- would have to move to Paris to run the company. Neither wanted the assignment, so the sale never happened.
A decade later GM bought Adam Opel in Germany, and in the 1970s Citroen joined with Peugeot. Now all of those European brands could finally come together.
Sloan succeeded Durant as the GM chief, and Walter Chrysler went his own way. In his famous book, Sloan wrote: "I sometimes wonder just how different the history of the industry would have been if either Mr. Chrysler or I had offered to operate Citroen for General Motors."