Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the manufacturer currently at the center of rampant speculation over a possible Chinese buyout and a spin-off of its Italian luxury brands, is reportedly in early talks with Volkswagen over the joint production of certain light utility vehicles.
Volkswagen, which has made crystal clear it wants nothing to do with a merger, might have products the Italian-American automaker could find beneficial. Despite the awkward back-and-forth between FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and VW Group chief Matthias Müller earlier this year, the German automaker didn’t rule out discussions with FCA.
According to a source close to the issue, the discussions include future versions of VW’s small commercial van and, interestingly, a midsize pickup truck.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the source said talks are at an early stage. “It’s still very vague, we have to see if this will be pursued,” the source said.
While the extent of the potential joint venture isn’t known, the report claims VW’s Caddy panel van and Amarok pickup are sources of interest. FCA already has its own small van — the Ram ProMaster City, based on the Fiat Doblo. However, one product FCA lacks — in North America at least — is a midsize pickup.
With Ford introducing a Ranger for 2019 to battle the Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon/Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, and Honda Ridgeline in the growing midsize segment, FCA remains the odd man out. Talk of a “baby Ram” has never amounted to much. The company does sell a midsize pickup overseas — the body-on-frame Fiat Fullback — but that vehicle is a Thailand-built, badge-engineered version of the Mitsubishi Triton/L200.
In Latin America, FCA sells the small, unibody Fiat Toro.
As we’ve seen with the Nissan Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class, even luxury brands aren’t immune to badge engineering when a niche market needs filling. Still, any midsize pickup bound for North America would need its assembly to take place within those geographical confines, lest it be slapped with the dreaded chicken tax.
Volkswagen builds the Amarok in Argentina.
If either company were to begin Mexican assembly of the model, Ram might have the midsize pickup it needs to stay competitive in all truck segments. (Assuming, of course, that the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement talks don’t result in an import tax on Mexican-made goods.)
Maybe it’s too early to begin pining for a Mexican-made, German-designed American truck.