NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) has sounded lately like an automaker on the brink, an impression reinforced last week by a report citing unnamed suppliers who said the company was delaying future vehicles, perhaps to defer spending.
Earlier, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne called for consolidation and collaboration among automakers to reduce wasteful capital spending. His statements might be seen as alarming -- or possibly alarmist -- at a time when his company's sales are growing, as well as vehicle sales generally in the U.S., Europe and China.
Marchionne emailed Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors (GM), suggesting they discuss a possible tie-up, a communication that Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann confirmed in late May. GM said publicly it's not interested in a deal with Fiat Chrysler.
Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley's auto analyst, last week published a report suggesting several reasons other than troubles at FCA for delaying vehicle models, or at least for telling suppliers that it's delaying development.
"Delaying launches on at least 12 new vehicles in North America may seem puzzling at first blush," said Jonas in a June 4 report. "We suspect it's symptomatic of a management team working with a sense of urgency to look for every last cost opportunity." Jonas rates Fiat Chrysler stock overweight. Of the three equity analysts that follow the stock, two have an overweight or buy rating, the other a hold.
In Jonas' view, raising questions about how quickly Fiat Chrysler will roll out new models prior to this summer's industry bargaining with the United Auto Workers union is a deliberate negotiating tactic. The union wants to end two-tier wage scales undertaken during the financial crisis to reduce labor costs for the Detroit-based automakers. The automakers want to maintain the lower wages and phase out the top tier.