(Reuters) -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is reaching out to hedge funds and activist investors to help persuade General Motors to agree to a merger, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Marchionne has been emboldened by recent successes of activist investors at GM and sees them as a means to consolidate the auto industry, the newspaper cited the people as saying.
Marchionne's contacts with activist investors, however, have not yet landed a patron, and a similar strategy could be used with at least one European carmaker, the WSJ said.
In a media briefing ahead of GM's annual shareholders meeting this morning, CEO Mary Barra confirmed that she recently received an e-mail from Marchionne, which she said was "very much vetted with management and our board."
"After we reviewed that, we are committed to our plan," Barra said.
“We have scale and we're leveraging that scale,” Barra said. “I would say [in] the last couple years we've really been merging with ourselves. I think we're seeing the benefits of that. There's still more to harvest.”
GM said in March that it had reached a deal with an investor group over its balance sheet and governance and said it would launch a $5 billion share buyback program in an effort to avert a proxy war with the investors.
Marchionne has repeatedly called for shrinking the number of players in the global auto industry to help sustain the heavy investments needed to meet demands for cleaner, safer vehicles.
Marchionne sent the email to Barra about a possible merger, but it was not the only such conversation Fiat Chrysler has had with other carmakers, the company's chairman, John Elkann, said in May.
Reuters reported in April, citing sources familiar with the situation, that Marchionne was hoping for a big deal, possibly in the United States, to plug the carmaker's weaknesses and cement his legacy before stepping down in early 2019.