Wednesday, November 19, 2008

M&M eyes Chrysler’s Jeep, Dodge brands

There could be another global acquisition brewing in the auto industry, that too, with an Indian player in the fray. Jeep and Dodge are the target and NDTV has learnt that Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) could be in the mood to buy. After losing out on Land Rover, M&M might be quick to follow the Tata example of a high profile global acquisition.In the heels of a collapse of merger talks between Chrysler and General Motors, M&M is likely to make a bid for parts of the Detroit based automotive giant Chrysler. However, sources indicate that M&M will most likely bid for the Jeep or Dodge lines of business as it would strengthen the Indian company's UV capability.The big question, however, is—what is driving this possibility and how will the global financial turmoil impact such an acquisition?Well, sources have it that after merger talks with GM fell through, Cerberus which owns Chrysler, is now looking at selling the brands and that’s where Mahindra steps in.Cerberus is likely to sell the Chrysler brand and Dodge-Jeep brands.It has identified potential buyers for Jeep-Dodge from India, China, Russia and the Middle East and most importantly, Mahindra's name is included as a possible suitor.The buy would benefit M&M in a number of ways. Since Jeep and Dodge products share platforms, they would strengthen M&M's UV capability. As also M&M wants to become a global player, acquiring these brands would give it a strong network in the US—a market that it wants to address seriously post 2010. Moreover, since Dodge and Jeep also sell in Europe and Latin America, M&M would also get access to a distribution network in those regions.Meanwhile, Cerberus is also in preliminary talks with Renault-Nissan and Fiat, but both the automotive giants lack strong utility capabilities, especially Fiat.However, Hyundai has shown some interest, though only in the Chrysler brand— which is where the idea of splitting the portfolio originated.Hence another big advantage for M&M would also be smaller liabilities since the Jeep and Dodge assets on ground are smaller as compared to those of Chrysler.It also means a smaller workforce to deal with, since job cuts are unlikely to be permissible and the option of developing and selling its own vehicles in the US, since low-end models are missing from the Dodge and Jeep portfolio.Thus, there is another big race in the making. Although M&M is likely to face a stiff competition for the brands, with a focused bid on Jeep and Dodge only, in addition to the synergies with its global strategy, it could see a financial backing coming through.

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