Its main premise was as follows: the production of mass-market cars was too expensive to engage in alone, and only thanks to the massive scale of shareholders could get an adequate return on their investment. The most effective way to reach this scale, Marcione explained, was a merger or partnership that would save automakers saving on buying and developing key components – things that don’t really define a car, but make it functional. He also speculated that automakers ’costs of research and development would rise rapidly as they faced attempts to pay for car electrification and the expansion of technologies such as car driving.
When he laid out his analysis to us, neither the history nor the existing landscape for car partnerships looked particularly fruitful. Renault-Nissan seemed to be getting along (at the time, anyway), Fiat’s bankruptcy of bankrupt Chrysler was mired in debt, but it was starting to make real money, and buying Geely in 2010 Volvo was only bearing fruit. In another world of the automotive industry, Volkswagen and Suzuki tried to achieve mixed results at best, Mazda and Ford were still together in what seemed like a marriage of convenience, and Toyota acquired a sixth of its parent company Subaru. There were, of course, partnerships between global automakers and their counterparts in China, but at the time they were more limited in terms of their impact on the U.S. market.
It was almost seven years ago – this month will mark the anniversary of Marcion’s presentation “Confessions of a Capital Junkie”, but look around today, and the partnership between automakers, so loudly defended by the Italian Canadian sweater, sprouted in the field of skeptics as many spring flowers.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares seems to be working with Marcion’s modified textbook in the Stellantis assembly from the FCA and Peugeot. There is a partnership between GM and Honda that promises to change the economy of electric vehicles. Ford and Volkswagen have deepened their partnership for the benefit of automakers and their ambitions of EV and autonomous driving, while Toyota seems to be assembling a genuine Japanese team from its holdings in Subaru, Mazda, Suzuki, Hino and Daihatsu.