By Drew Johnson
Monday, Jul 8th, 2013 @ 9:03 am
 
Fiat is one step closer to fully merging with Chrysler after the Italian automaker exercised an option earlier on Monday to purchase an additional 3.3 percent stake in the Auburn Hills-based car maker.

Fiat has now run its ownership stake in Chrysler up to 68.49 percent. Fiat was initially given a 20 percent stake in Chrysler following the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy and has increased its ownership position through meeting certain government requirements and incremental 3.3 percent purchases from VEBA, a healthcare fund setup for the UAW.

VEBA owns the balance of Chrysler, but Fiat has pledged to one day own 100 percent of the automaker.

When that full merger might happen, however, remains unknown. The two sides are currently in court battling over the total value of Chrysler. VEBA says Chrysler is valued at $10.3 billion while Fiat says the company is only worth $4.2 billion.

"The talks have not produced any results so far, so we don't have anything to announce," Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, told Automotive News about the litigation.

Fiat has reportedly secured $10 billion in financing to purchase Chrysler. In addition to the final purchase price, part of that funding would be used to refinance debt at both Chrysler and Fiat.