The rest of the auto industry may be flatlining, but Fiat is going horizontal in a very different way: horizontal integration.
Yesterday the Italian automaker confirmed that in addition to the merger it's arranging with Chrysler, Fiat is also hoping to acquire GM Europe, including the Saab and Opel brands. There's no deal to discuss just yet, but there's talk of creating a new company, which would absorb Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, plus the Chrysler and GM brands. Such a company could sell up to seven million vehicles each year, with annual revenues in the €80 billion range (over $106 billion). Speaking of the potential merger, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said, "From an engineering and industrial point of view, this is a marriage made in heaven". If everything goes his way, he's hoping that a deal can be brokered by the end of this month.
Of course, there are a fair number of hurdles between Marchionne and his angelic partnership--notably, anti-trust legislation and significant opposition from German unions and automakers like Volkswagen. But so far, Sergio has been pretty good at getting what he wants. We're not going to bet against him just yet.