It was ironic when there was buzz in Germany that DaimlerChrysler planned to buy a chunk of Volkswagen. Some might even call it a sign, though DaimlerChrysler ruled out buying any VW stock.
After all, it was only a little more than a quarter century ago when it looked as if VW would buy Chrysler Corp. It was 1979, and Lee Iacocca was the CEO of Chrysler, which was struggling to stay afloat.
The Wall Street wags all figured a Chrysler-VW-Nissan hookup would have been a dream team, with the global stability of a three-legged stool: Complementary product lineups, a leg each in Europe, Asia and North America, plus depth of talent.
Alas, the Volkswagen purchase of Chrysler failed to come together. Iacocca and his troops -- including current Delphi Corp. CEO Steve Miller -- soldiered on, twice dodging the bankruptcy bullet.
Yes, the company needed the cooperation and sacrifice of its employees, shareholders and lenders to obtain the federal loan guarantees that made the difference 25 years ago. But it survived and thrived on its own, without foreign aid, although it did divest its overseas subsidiaries.
Wall Street wasn't wrong about the need for international hookups. Since then there have been many foreign entanglements involving just about every automaker. In Renault, Nissan found the European partner it needed, and Chrysler ultimately was acquired by a different German automaker. There also have been some expensive near misses, such as the General Motors-Fiat fiasco.
So with all the foreign corporate intrigue and everything going on in Wolfsburg, Germany, would it have seemed odd if DaimlerChrysler had bought some of VW's stock to help guard against a hostile takeover, especially since Porsche already has?
If DaimlerChrysler had bought into VW, it would have raised a few eyebrows around Europe because this time the companies propping each other up are from the same country, making regulators jittery about national carmaking cabals and the like. Even after the PSA/Peugeot-Citroen hookup in France.
Not long ago, the thought of Volkswagen being in play seemed ridiculous.
But today, unlike 1979, just about any scenario is imaginable. And possible.
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