Amid the handshakes and smiles of a tentative labor agreement with the UAW last week, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne let slip where he is going next.
The industry's capital consumption "is something which remains unsolved," Marchionne said, "and it almost -- it makes the labor side sort of pale in comparison given the magnitude of the potential synergies and the benefits that we would be deriving from an intelligent approach to that issue.
"I can now, as an organization, focus on the remainder of my objective, which has now become the first priority."
So Marchionne is heading back to the ramparts, fighting to gain access to General Motors. But there's a side door open to Fortress GM, one that Marchionne could use -- with help from his new friends -- to slip into GM's boardroom.
The following is strictly speculation on my part. It doesn't in any way come from Marchionne or anybody else at FCA. But consider:
The UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, also known as the VEBA, is the largest single institutional holder of GM common stock, with roughly 8.9 percent of the company. The trust operates with fiduciary responsibility to maximize the return on its holdings for the benefit of GM retirees.
If Marchionne's patrons, the Agnelli family and their Exor holding company, were to offer to buy the VEBA's GM stake at a premium -- say $40 a share, or $5.6 billion -- the VEBA would have a tougher time saying "no sale" than Mary Barra has.
In the Agnellis, GM's directors would face an activist shareholder holding one-eleventh of the company. It would be up to them to decide whether to offer that shareholder a seat alongside them.
If they did, the Agnellis might turn to a guy they know well to fill it -- a guy with an abundant supply of black sweaters.
If I were Barra or Dan Ammann, that's the kind of scenario that would keep me up at night.
If only to make sure all the doors are locked.