Chinese automakers reportedly interested in buying Fiat Chrysler

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TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - A Chinese automaker has made at least one offer to buy Fiat Chrysler this month. That's according to Automotive News. Automotive News also reports the offer was turned down because it was too low.

The head of the union that represents local Fiat Chrysler workers says he is not surprised by the news of a potential sale to a Chinese company. He also says whatever happens, the workforce will make it work.

According to Automotive News, executives from large Chinese automakers have looked at a potential purchase of Fiat Chrysler in recent days. The report goes on to say that Fiat Chrysler executives have traveled to China to meet with leaders of one company, and that Chinese delegations have been seen at FCA headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Fiat Chrysler leaders have no comment, but UAW Local 12 president Bruce Baumhower says he thinks a potential sale to the Chinese is certainly a possibility, "I don't know what to think about it at this point. I can say whatever it is, we'll get used to it, we always have. We're actually kind of used to this."

Foreign ownership is nothing new for Jeep. The company has been owned by French, German and Italian automakers. If another sale happens, Baumhower has one priority when it comes to the Wrangler, "If I am concerned about something it would be that they don't build the Wrangler in China. Fiat Chrysler has committed to building the Wrangler in Toledo for China, India and all global markets. That is the first thing I would want to talk about, if this ever happened."

In the middle of this sale speculation, Baumhower points out there's already a Chinese connection to Wrangler production here in Toledo, "The Wrangler body shop was owned by a German company called Kuka. They have been a part of the Wrangler operation for about 11 years, but they were bought out by a Chinese firm this year. The deal closed in January of this year. Negotiations had been going on since last year. We haven't seen any changes with the sale, other than the name of who owns it."

So what do investment experts think about the report? Alan Lancz is a local Money Manager, "I think there is some validity to the report of a potential sale to the Chinese."

The report indicates the first offer was turned down, but Lancz says initial offers are just a starting point, "Of course you are not going to start with your biggest offer as a buyer. As the seller, if you reject the first offer, you don't automatically think negotiations are over. I think there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. It will be interesting to see just how high, a Chinese company is willing to go to get a foot print outside their region. There will be back and forth. Whether they get high enough for Fiat Chrysler management to pull the trigger, that's the big question."

But among all the questions, Baumhower says one thing is for sure, "Our Toledo workforce is so special that whoever owns us, they have always said they have never seen anything like our employees. We'll be fine either way, we always have been."