MUNICH -- Fiat said today that it still plans to form a partnership with Chrysler as speculation mounted that the Italian automaker aims to take a majority stake in General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall brands.
Fiat said it planned to seal its alliance with Chrysler by an April 30 deadline imposed by the Obama administration.
"Final terms for this transaction continue to be negotiated with the U.S. Treasury and other relevant stakeholders," Fiat said in a statement. "If negotiations are concluded successfully, final terms will be set on or before April 30, 2009," it said.
Fiat made no mention of Opel. Automotive News first reported Fiat's interest in Opel on Friday, April 17.
Opel supervisory board member Armin Schild told Reuters that Fiat is in talks with GM to buy a controlling interest in Opel.
Schild, who represents the German labor union IG Metall on the board, said IG Metall opposes a deal with Fiat because Fiat's financial health is not good.
"Opel cannot survive with two sick parents and a Fiat deal would lead to less autonomy for an Opel Europe rather than more," Schild said.
Opel's labor boss Klaus Franz and German media reports said on Thursday that Fiat and Opel are in discussions for Fiat to take over Opel,
Franz, who is deputy chairman of Opel's supervisory board and chairman of the carmaker's works council, told German press agency DPA that unions will oppose a Fiat takeover of Opel.
Franz said there is too much overlap between the product ranges of Fiat and Opel and the takeover could lead to a "dramatic" dismantling of jobs at Opel as well as factory closures in Germany.
GM is carving out German-based Opel and its British sister brand Vauxhall into a separate unit and is seeking outside investors for the brands. GM has not ruled out selling a majority stake in Opel/Vauxhall.
The German magazine Spiegel said Fiat and Opel will sign a letter of intent on Tuesday.
GM is also in talks to offload an Opel stake to Magna Steyr, the Austrian unit of Canadian autoparts maker Magna International, Spiegel reported without citing sources. But it said the U.S. carmaker and Germany's economy ministry preferred a deal with Fiat.
The German state of Hesse, which is home to Opel's main plant in Ruesselsheim, said the reports showed there were indeed parties interested in Opel, quashing speculation that GM would have a hard time finding an investor.
"Magna and Fiat are among the possible partners. But it is also clear that there has been no decision yet," Hesse's premier, Roland Koch, said in a statement.
auto motor und sport said GM CEO Fritz Henderson had already held talks with Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne about a tieup.
auto motor und sport said Fiat is interested in Opel's Insignia and Astra platforms.
A GM Europe spokesman said today: "GM has reached out to several investors for Opel but we will not comment on any speculation about who is being engaged."