Fiat to make priority of Chrysler purchase image

Fiat SpA, Italy’s biggest carmaker, will focus on completing the purchase of a stake in Chrysler LLC by June 1 as the U.S. manufacturer prepares to leave protection from creditors, Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said.

The Italian carmaker still wants to buy General Motors Corp.’s Opel division in Europe and is “very much interested” in its Latin American operations, Marchionne told reporters in Montreal. A purchase of the U.S. company’s Saab Automobile unit in Sweden, while possible, is less likely if Fiat can’t buy Opel because the two GM brands share so many parts, the CEO said.

Fiat and Aurora, Ontario-based Magna International Inc. are competing for a stake in Opel, which GM is selling while preparing for a bankruptcy filing. Marchionne skipped a meeting with government leaders in Berlin today after talks stalled yesterday over financial backing that GM was seeking for Opel. Magna submitted “new proposals” to help rescue the unit, Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said today.

“If the Opel transaction is not available to Fiat, life will move on,” Marchionne said. “We’ll just be focusing on what we have.”

Chrysler is in bankruptcy court seeking approval of a $2 billion takeover offer from Fiat and U.S. partners. Scott E. Ratner, a lawyer for the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based carmaker, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez in Manhattan today that the company had resolved all suppliers’ objections to the sale. CEO Robert Nardelli testified yesterday that the purchase could be completed by today if Gonzalez approves.

‘Kick-Started’ Renewal

“We’ll be spending the next few days with the leadership” at Chrysler, Marchionne said. “We need to get the organization kick-started for when it comes out of Chapter 11. That remains the primary objective.”

Marchionne wants Fiat to become a global carmaker by cooperating with Opel and Chrysler. He reiterated in a speech to finance executives in Montreal today that he foresees only six companies with a worldwide car-industry presence, meaning annual production of more than 6 million vehicles, in two years.

Fiat isn’t interested in becoming a partner with Magna in buying Opel, Marchionne told reporters. At the same time, Chrysler would probably continue buying supplies from the Canadian company, North America’s second-biggest car-parts maker, he said.