No. 812,
September 2, 2015

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An offer GM can refuse.

I hope Mary Barra doesn't own a race horse.

Jim Z.
Detroit, Michigan



Desperation has many colors.

Think Sergio is desperate? Try bankers in search of M&A fees.

Michael W.
Eastchester, New York


Now there's an idea.

I would bet Sergio has some investors lined up to make trouble for GM in an attempt to bring them to the table. It is going to get ugly and it will hurt GM, draining their cash and diminishing their focus. Is there any way we can interest The Great Sergio in buying Consumer Reports? His personality and leadership style fit their modus operandi.

D.W.
Lugoff, South Carolina


Teed up.

While and after reading the hysterical interview by AN of Marchionne, I was wondering how you were going to skewer the pompous ---. Question answered, appropriately.

Michael G
Coral Springs, Florida


The Great Posterior Orifice Reaming, Part II.

You don't suppose that GM's reticence in getting involved with FCA and Sergio et al has anything to do with their prior encounter with Fiat, and the posterior orifice reaming they received in that encounter? Nah.

T.S.
Owatonna, Minnesota

They don't call 'em "fantasy mind clouds" for nothin'.

After reading various reports and your spot on column today about the greatest person in automotive history, “Sergio the Great”, I think he may have stopped off in Colorado to put together his “irrefutable” numbers...

BCTG77
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

 

Oh, the horror... the horror.

I can see Sergio Marchionne is perfect for only one job on this planet Earth, taking over Bernie's Formula 1 Empire!

Neil S.
Malvern, Pennsylvania

 

Dear Sergio...

For a guy with irrefutable numbers you sure are shy about sharing them. If this is the slam dunk deal you claim it to be, the most pressure you could exert would be to show the irrefutable numbers.

The fact that you're coy with the details indicates that you don't want a merger, you just need to distract investors from the facts/figures of your horrendous leadership.

Here are some irrefutable facts, Sergio:

- FCA is one gas crisis away from going under.
- Your stewardship of FCA is bleeding a proud, brilliant brand to death.
- Nearly every plan you have stated has come up short and your failures are starting to show.
- You are the only one delusional enough to believe that your next plan will work.
- Of course until you hatch your next plan, you need to play your shell game.

Sergio, you are lucky Fiat Alfa dealers don't start a class action lawsuit against you.

HSV
Charleston, South Carolina



Sergiocrity.

So perhaps the GM BoD aren't complete fools if they can rebuff Sergiodiocy.

Around here 3/4 of the Golfs I see are GTI's, the other 1/4 are TDI with an occasional stock one. So why doesn't VW just make GTI's? Would dilute the name plate, but if VW wants to sell some cars in the US…

DG
Rochester, New York



Biases, etc.

A lot of what you called your biases are just your (interesting, personal) opinions. IMHO your biases are: 1.) it is more important that cars be fun to drive rather than be reliable, easy and inexpensive to repair and have a good dealer network; 2.) the quality of the car and the driving experience are more more important than the value for money, and 3.) Chevrolet.

In my case, I am biased in other ways. The next time my wife is not looking I will buy a Mustang GT350. I could never buy any VW (Golf GTI, R or whatever) or Chevrolet (SS or anything else). My loss, probably, but I am biased (based on personal experience too tedious to go into).

John Page
New Orleans, Louisiana

 

On Sergio.

Peter, Your latest diatribe against Sergio is right on the money. I've been a staunch defender of his record based on the fact that he saved FIAT numerous times. However, his arrogant pursuit of a merger (read “bail-out”) is an embarrassment, which has evolved to criminal negligence in his latest comments that you refer to; namely his stating openly that he can't go to the markets to raise capital because he doesn't want to dilute the Agnelli's 30% stake. So he's expecting GM and/or the government to step in and ensure the Italian/Swiss aristocracy can maintain their wealth. Disgusting. Giovanni Agnelli was the Henry Ford of Europe, and created an amazing company. After years of mismanagement, Sergio succeeded in saving this company that really had no business surviving. You only have to read your Machiavelli to know that “Prince Sergio”, in his hubris, has overstayed his welcome, and killed la Fabbrica Italiano Automobili Torinese!

SDS
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 

Giving credit where credit is due.

Were you to be given Sergio Marchionne's job, which is to mitigate and hopefully prevent the enormous hit to the fortunes of the Agnelli/Elkann clan resulting from the apparently inevitable bankruptcy of the old Fiat Auto empire, what would you do differently than Sergio has? Realize that not just mitigating a loss, but salvaging some increased value and wealth is the preferred outcome for the family, as well as his own path to riches and high regard.

Given the extreme difficulty of his task, and the opportunities that were presented in the 2008 crisis, hasn't there been a great deal of progress in those objectives? Granted, this accepts that the interests being pursued are not those of the Michigan-based auto industry and the remnants of the always-beleaguered Chrysler community. But no one, anywhere, had proposed a viable path to success for Chrysler in an industry plagued with excess capacity and slammed by the worst downturn since the Great Depression, so that agenda is not really on the table anymore, is it?

We may not like the game being played, but perhaps can appreciate the against-all-odds progress made on behalf of one of the weakest players in the industry, the hapless Fiat empire.

Seppo
Lebanon, Pennsylvania

 

Orphans.

I read The GOAT's statements and ideas, and I'm amazed. If I knew how to do one, I would do up one of those “Downfall” Hitler's-final-hours bunker videos and post it at YouTube. It would write itself.

We were pretty much a Chrysler family since the 1930s, if you include my uncles. We've mostly migrated to GM and as much as I enjoy my 2014 Durango, I'd not even think of a FCA product were I in the market for a new vehicle. Who wants to buy what will most certainly become an orphan within the next two to three years?

DJ Mann
Henderson, Nevada


A shill game.

CR is eerily similar to JD Power when it comes to be ‘unbiased.’ A company I worked for previously had gotten poor ratings from both. Contact was made with both and both described in detail what needed to be done in order to get their approval. It was spelled out letter for letter. ‘If you do X it will increase your score here. If you do Y you will gain points here.’ Its a shill and nothing more.

JFA
Winona, Minnesota

 

Sergio and such.

Great article on the Amazing Sergio. I would only quibble about FCA being $8 billion in debt with no cash hoard. When Sergio refinanced to pay off the federal loan, one banker estimated the total debt at closer to $30 billion.

As the Agnelli conglomerate was broken up piecemeal, the spin-offs were attractive because they left the accumulated parent debt behind, with Fiat. The family holding company has been peeling off assets and owning a chunk of the newly created companies. The Ferrari spin-off is just the latest.

Sergio's job has been to find a way to dump the husk of Fiat, now with the husk of Chrysler, onto somebody else, somehow, with Sergio walking into the sunset after earning a huge fee. The Agnelli family will be finally rid of Fiat and its debt, and be much richer with its family holding company owning a wide range of assets.

The FCA balance sheet shows a huge cash hoard, but it can't be spent since it's offsetting the debt load to produce an $8 billion NET debt. FCA is in far worse shape than is apparent on the surface. You have to give Sergio chops for hiding the desperation, since FCA likely won't survive an economic downturn that is looking inevitable, with China faltering and the Fed ready to raise interest rates.

Larry Faria
San Diego, Cailifornia


Yes, indeed, Gurney is the coolest ever.

Okay, Sergio, if you're so hot-and-bothered to merge, how about offering Mary Barra Jeep and Ram only? That's the part that Bob Lutz was so excited about back in 2008. Let Fiat be Fiat — keep Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, etc. for the Agnelli family to play with. Dodge and Chrysler can go the way of Pontiac and Oldsmobile.

That's the only possible scenario that would make sense for GM. But of course, King Sergio gets the short straw in that situation, so it's a no-go. Like right now. Good luck, and pass the espresso.

As for Dan Gurney… is he the coolest ever, or what?

C.C.
Decatur, Georgia

 

Dan the Man.

I don't pretend to understand what Dan Gurney is up to, but I do know his track record of being an innovator is legendary. If anybody can make that work, he can pull it off. At the very least, maybe IndyCar will let him race one next season and make open wheel worth watching again…

J.R.
Rochester, New York

 

Electric avenues.

Simple question for all the Tesla fans: which saves more fuel and reduces related pollution – Tesla's electric cars replacing a typical Lexus LS460 or a new EcoBoost Ford F-150 replacing a typical 15 year-old Ford F-150? Since Ford is selling about 600K of the much more efficient F-150s each year, the fuel savings from trucks dwarfs the fuel savings from the entire electric car market. And Ford didn't demand billions in taxpayer subsidies to make their trucks more efficient. The smugness enjoyed by Tesla fans can no longer be subsidized by the taxpayers – that high is just too damn expensive!

Jim
Tampa, Florida

 

GM.

I believe GM and their BoD have made some amazing blunders over the years. That said, not taking Sergio's call is the smartest damn thing they have done in 40 years. They just got out of scalding water and have a strong product line, why would they want to hook up with a maniac who will only send them back into ruin?!?

J.V.
Nothville, Michigan

 

The High-Octane Truth, as advertised.

RE: Sergio and Consumer Reports: Damn, Peter, don't sugarcoat it... tell us what you really think!

And yes, Gurney is the coolest ever. In my opinion, and no disrespect to the Unsers, Mears, Dixons, Foyts... Dan is the ultimate as far as American open wheelers are concerned, and likely one of the all-time world greats as well.

Ted R
Raleigh, North Carolina

 

 

Sergio, Sergio, Sergio.

Ah, Peter. I do enjoy your anti-Sergio rants. I think he's full of himself, too, but I don't think he's quite as bad as you make him out to be. Chrysler is doing much better under his espresso-swilling crew than they did under the evil Cerberus and the incompetent Germans. (Btw, let me tell ya,, those German automakers aren't invincible. BMW engine trouble, ugly vehicles of puzzling usability; VWs with interesting oil consumption habits. I think Audis are gorgeous but nose-heavy)

Look, if Alfa comes around, great. The 500x isn't a bad car; it looks good and drives pretty well. I've driven the regular 500 all over central Italy (I live in Perugia part-time) and with the 2-cylinder engine it's a blast. I do think they're spread too thin and they've made big mistakes in not updating some models. I wouldn't mind a 500 to tool around outer-borough NYC--there are lots where I live, on Staten Island, where we have steep hills and curvy roads.

The GM obsession, though. Oy, as we say in New York. Fuhgettaboutit. PSA would be a better match, if he really needs one. But and the gang should first concentrate on making good products and not screw their Italian and American workers. Punto e basta, as we say in Italy.

Hey, what's wrong with espresso? (And a confession: I prefer small and clever to big and brutish. I loved my Fiat 128 from years ago, and more recently, my Golf.)

Anthony Paonita  
NYC/Perugia, Italy 

Editor-In-Chief's Note: Grazie, Anthony. For the record, I LOVE espresso. (And I have owned two Fiats, a used '68 850 Coupe and a new, '80 Strada. And I grew up on Opels.) The 500X is at least in the game. But Sergio's plan for Alfa? Wildly optimistic, at best. As I said in this week's "On The Table," Sergio revealed his real self in that AN interview, and it ain't pretty. -PMD