It sounds like a scene more suited to the streets of Laredo than the Porte de Versailles, but Fiat CEO and ACEA president Sergio Marchionne has called out Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and it appears the two are headed for a showdown this morning.
“If Volkswagen, through its chief executive, thinks that it needs to do something, tell them to show up tomorrow morning at 7 o’clock at our stand,” Marchionne told reporters at the Paris Auto Show.
VW spokesman Eric Felber said Winterkorn has accepted Marchionne’s invitation. Felber said Volkswagen “sticks to our statement” that Marchionne should step down.
The duel will take place at a meeting of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) to be held at the Fiat exhibit.
Fiat and VW have both threatened to quit the ACEA over a war of words the carmakers have had in recent months over Marchionne’s leadership of the organization and Volkswagen’s aggressive strategies in the continuing disaster that is the European car market. See this related article for more background on the situation.
In July, Stephan Grühsem, VW’s chief spokesman, said that Marchionne was not qualified to head the ACEA and threatened to quit the organization after Marchionne blamed VW’s pricing strategy for creating a “bloodbath” in Europe. VW said yesterday it stood by its call for his resignation.
The two automakers are also involved in another quarrel, this time over Alfa Romeo. Marchionne insists it’s not for sale and has told VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech “to go and sing somewhere else.” Piech retorted at the German carmaker’s Paris reception this week that VW “can wait” for Alfa.
Marchionne reiterated yesterday the nameplate isn’t for sale, then added, “Do I have to say it in German?”
VW Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Pötsch added fuel to the fire this week when he said that “especially carmakers in southern Europe” may have trouble surviving the crisis without government aid. Since the only automakers of any size in Southern Europe are Fiat Group and Volkswagen’s own SEAT brand, the message was not lost on Marchionne. Pötsch also rejects the idea of a coordinated effort to cut excess capacity. This has been one of the key initiatives Marchionne has pushing on the other European automakers, who stand to lose billions of dollars this year.
“I have no particular interest in continuing my role without the support of the board,” Marchionne said yesterday. “But I also don’t particularly give a flying hoot what the CFO or the head of the press office at Volkswagen thinks.”
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said that Marchionne has a thankless job during these rough times. When asked who he thought should be at the head of the ACEA, Ghosn laughed and said “I’m very happy as long as it’s not me.”
Report sourced from Bloomberg, Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 Oro and Reuters.