Increasingly the speculation is focusing on Ford's potential purchase of either Volvo or BMW, with Fiat being tipped as an outsider, but the purchase of Volvo is thought to be the most likely. A twist was added to the rumours on Monday when Fiat bosses were quoted as saying 'there are talks with Volvo', but a UK-based Fiat Group spokesman told Fleet NewsNet: 'Manufacturers talk to each other all the time. Any merger talk is pure speculation.'
American commentators were also linking Ford with Honda and a financially struggling Nissan. In addition Renault was reported to be in talks with Nissan and French rivals Peugeot and Citroen, both part of PSA. There also continues to be speculation that DaimlerChrysler could join forces with Nissan and its subsidiary Nissan Diesel with a view to co-operation on commercial vehicles following an initial announcement last year that they will jointly build a light truck from 2002.
Ford's acknowledgement last month that it was in talks with Volvo - although the manufacturer said it talked to many companies - has refused to go away and since then there has been speculation that BMW could be for sale amid reports that it is starving itself of cash in its quest to support Rover with the German manufacturer's board becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress. The speculation intensified in Detroit when Eaton said he expected that within the next 90 days a major European car manufacturer would be bought. That speculation centred on Ford after General Motors chairman and chief executive officer Jack Smith told a group of UK journalists that the company was not involved in serious talks to buy any manufacturer.