Monday's HOT MIC

Monday's HOT MIC


Chinese automaker reportedly bids for Fiat Chrysler.

What's really sad is that investors are buoyed by the rumor, and given the current state of the Chrysler brand, they may be right to be:

A Chinese automaker reportedly made a quiet bid to acquire Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, raising the distinct possibility that the traditional member of the Detroit Three that was bailed out by U.S. taxpayers could wind up with Chinese ownership.

After years of pursuing a deal to gain greater global scale, the Italian-American automaker recently rejected an acquisition bid by an unidentified Chinese company, according to Automotive News.

The publication also reported that multiple Chinese automakers are weighing a similar bid for the maker of the Jeep, Ram, Chrysler and Dodge brands.

A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman declined to comment Monday morning.

But investors were heartened by the prospect of a deal. Fiat Chrysler shares traded in New York rose 8.2% to $12.56 at 10:44 a.m.

Chrysler's stablemates, Jeep and Dodge, are just as Jeepy and Dodgey as ever.

(Well, almost ever. Jeep still produces three of the most-loved and iconic American off-road vehicles, but they also make some "soft-roader" wannabes which have no business sporting the Jeep name. But I digress.)

Chrysler enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s with its "cab-forward" vehicles -- outgoing CEO Lee Iacocca's parting gift to the company he'd saved from extinction in the late-'70s/early-'80s. But having pushed front-wheel architecture as far as it would go, the company went back to its muscle-sedan roots with the awesome rear-wheel drive 300C introduced for the 2005 model year.

But that was about it.

Daimler got fed up and sold off the Chrysler Group to an investment firm headed up by Bob Nardelli, who had just finished up nearly ruining Home Depot. Nardelli's Cerberus Capital Management sullied the brand once known for "attainable luxury" even further by cheapening Chrysler's interiors to the point that they became a running joke. By the time the Obama Administration foisted Chrysler Group on Fiat two years later, there was hardly anything left of Chrysler, itself.

Even now, eight years later, the brand's entire lineup consists of the aging 300, the all-but-dead 200, and the Pacifica minivan. Crossovers are all the rage now, and Chrysler -- which once pioneered the move to minivans and the return of the high-output V-8 -- doesn't make a single one.

It's been a long, slow, sad decline. And even if Fiat, or the Chinese, or whoever, can save the Chrysler Group's stronger brands, I'm not sure there's enough of Chrysler left to save.