Italian motorcycle maker Piaggio is considering an offer to buy DaimlerChryslers troubled Smart unit.
IMMSI group, Piaggios controlling shareholder, confirmed it was approached by Goldman Sachs, an investment bank D/C says it hired to filter unsolicited offers for Smart.
Goldman Sachs contacted IMMSI group to gauge its interest toward a deal regarding the Smart brand, an IMMSI spokesman in Milan told Automotive News Europe. We have no further comment on the topic.
But a person close to the negotiations told ANE that Piaggio – Europes largest motorcycle maker and a manufacturer of small commercial vehicles – is considering D/Cs offer.
Piaggio is not the only potential buyer. A source close to the matter identified Indias Tata group and Japans Suzuki as other prospects, although Suzukis top executive says the carmaker is not interested.
Smart spokesperson Bettina Singhartinter said: Neither we nor DaimlerChrysler have any plans to sell Smart.
The person close to the negotiations said Piaggio – for a very reasonable amount – was offered:
- The Smart brand
- Smarts plant in Hambach, France, and all related tooling
- Smarts intellectual property for existing and future vehicles, engines and transmissions
- A large, low-interest loan to help pay for a relaunch of Smart and to cover future operating losses.
But the apparent generous terms offered to Piaggio underscore the difficulty of closing or selling an automaking operation in western Europe.
According to a source close to the D/C-Piaggio negotiations, if Piaggio took control of Smart, it would move production to India. But the companies are at a stalemate over which side would have to close Smarts Hambach plant, the source said.