What's next in Marchionne-Piech tussle -- a bounty?

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Chrysler Group released year-end monthly sales incentives on Tuesday. Most were the normal stuff you would expect from a company trying to move metal before a new year rolls around.

But one of Chrysler's lesser-advertised incentives this month is steeped in so much personal pique it should come with its own dueling glove.

The automaker added an extra $1,000 in conquest cash on the hood of all but three of its products for current owners of … wait for it … Volkswagens.

I know, right? It's hard to believe that a company run by Sergio Marchionne would add an extra spiff to steal customers directly from a company run by Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech. I just can't understand how two men who get along so famously … (Oh, forget it. There's only so much sarcasm I can inject into one sentence before my keyboard locks up.)

Marchionne and Piech have been trading verbal punches for years. Earlier this year, Volkswagen demanded Marchionne resign as the rotating head of the European automotive lobbying group ACEA. In Paris in September, Marchionne did everything but call VW execs outside for a fistfight.

Piech, left, and Marchionne: Their rivalry is taking another turn with new incentives from Chrysler this month.

Chrysler only exempted three of its vehicles from the Volkswagen spiff: the 2013 Viper, which just went into production, the Grand Cherokee SRT, and non-aero trim versions of the Dodge Dart SE.

Of course, Chrysler also exempted current owners of Fords, Chevys, Toyotas, Hondas and every other brand that doesn't keep trying to buy Alfa Romeo just to get under Marchionne's skin.

If those other brands had been included in the conquest cash, Chrysler dealers could use that money to sell more cars this month. And that would lower Chrysler's current 90-day supply of unsold vehicles -- the highest inventory level Chrysler has had since April 2009, the month it entered bankruptcy.

Europeans seem to have an inexplicable need every few generations to fight a war to maintain their national identities and national pride, with historically tragic consequences. The European common market was supposed to end all that -- and maybe it did, if this year's Nobel Peace Prize was any indication.

Or maybe it just transferred that desire to slap one another around every once in a while to its national industries, where CEOs are still free to poke their rivals with a sharp stick now and then.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.

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