"I've done a lot of [mergers and acquisitions] in my career," Kamsickas said. "I don't know that I've witnessed a more complementary transaction."
Kamsickas said Dana "did a reach out in early December to say that this seems to make sense." He said talks progressed through December and into early January.
"Timing's everything," Kamsickas said.
GKN has been fighting off Melrose since January, when it spurned an unsolicited takeover bid. Stevens, 69, was named CEO in December. She spent 26 years at Ford, leaving in 2006 as COO of the Americas.
Melrose then turned hostile and took its offer, which at the time valued GKN at 7.4 billion pounds ($10.23 billion), directly to GKN's shareholders. GKN has previously set out plans to sell its powder metallurgy business. Taken together with the Dana deal, that would leave GKN solely focused on aerospace. The Dana deal could force Melrose to raise its bid. A source close to Melrose told Reuters the firm may have to revisit its offer.
"Different things happened in the UK, but we stayed on our path," Kamsickas said.
A combined deal would enable Dana -- with automotive roots dating back 114 years -- to capitalize on GKN's work with light-duty electrification and give Dana a much larger presence in China. Dana CFO Jonathan Collins said growing electrification presents opportunities for growth for the combined company because its per-vehicle content is likely to grow exponentially. GKN has supplied components to eight global electrified platforms, with others in the pipeline.
"Combining these businesses gives us a balanced portfolio across the globe, with significant upside," Collins said.
Wall Street so far has embraced the deal. Dana shares rose 3.5 percent to close at $27.14 on Friday.
Dana ranks No. 44 on the Automotive News Europe's list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $5.83 billion in 2016. GKN ranks No. 37 on that list with sales to automakers of $6.74 billion in 2016.
Reuters contributed to this report.