Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

The Chrysler Auction


Now the fun starts. Following last Wednesday's announcement from DaimlerChrysler CEO Deiter Zetsche that he's open to all options for the Chrysler division-including a possible sale- the rumors, scenarios, and yes a few factual reports started coming out all over the world.

According to the London Times, JP Morgan will begin the process of auctioning Chrysler by sending specifications to prospective buyers.

I'll be curious to see who comes out of this auction with all or part of Chrysler. But five days in to this game of "who wants an automaker?", here's my take on the various suitors.

Most likely buyers

1. GM

The world's largest automaker would like adding the Jeep and Ram brands, but not the legacy costs, extra capacity, and headaches that go along with buying the plants that build those trucks and SUV's.

If GM could find a way to pick up those brands with little of the ancellary issues- and that's a huge if- I think CEO Rick Wagoner would pull the trigger.

2. PSA Peuegeot Citroen

The French automaker wants to get back in to the U.S. and buying the country's 3rd largest car and truck maker would accomplish that in one move. There's a dealer metwork set up for bringing Peugeot's into the states. Also, with the Dodge and Chrysler brands just starting plans to expand in to Europe, the Citroen/Puegeot network in that continent could make that expansion a smoother one.

3. Chery/SAIC

These Chinese automakers are both looking to crack the U.S. market. While they are both small, it's not far fetched to see either one of them coming up with the money to buy Chrysler. Remember, Chery has already signed an agreement DaimlerChrysler to build compact cars in China that will be badged as Chryslers.

Intrigueing but less likely

1. Renault/Nissan

CEO Carlos Ghosn has long said that his Fench/Japanese alliance could benefit with a third partner in North America. But with Nissan falling short of earnings for the first time in 7 years, and the company starting a three year turnaround plan, Ghosn may not want the headaches that go along with buying a money losing Chrysler.

2. Hyundai

The Korean automaker would love to expand it's presence in the U.S. and Chrysler's 2,100 dealers would give Hyundai a major footprint in the states. In addition, Chrysler's heavy slant on trucks/suv's (59% of it's lineiup) would help the Asian automaker bypass the long and difficult task of trying to crack America's truck market,..which, despite the slowdown in sales, is still among the most lucrative in the world.

However, after losing money every quarter last year, Hyundai says it is not interested in acquiring Chrysler.

3. Toyota

The Japanese automaker has the cash, but this would be out of character. Toyota has grown by doing it on it's own. It doesn't grow through acquisitions. Also, buying Chrysler would mean taking on UAW plants, something Toyota likely wants to avoid.

The Wild Card: DaimlerChrysler could ultimately sell off Chrysler in pieces.

Stay tuned.

Questions?  Comments?