Fiat could merge with Renault to become world’s third biggest carmaker.

Fiat Chrysler has proposed a merger with Renault that would create the third biggest carmaker in the world behind Volkswagen and Toyota.

The tie-up is aimed at saving billions of dollars for both companies as the car industry moves towards electric and autonomous vehicles.

In a statement on Monday, Italian-American firm Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) said the merged company would be 50 percent owned by FCA shareholders and 50 percent by Renault shareholders.

The proposal indicated that Renault’s existing alliance with Japan’s Nissan and Mitsubishi – a looser arrangement than a merger or acquisition, which allows the firms to benefit from economies of scale while maintaining separate corporate structures – would continue.

The 20-year alliance has come under strain recently due to the arrest of its former chair Carlos Ghosn on financial misconduct charges in Japan.

The alliance between Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi makes them the biggest maker of passenger cars in the world.

The French company Renault would not comment on the Fiat Chrysler proposal until after a special meeting of its board on Monday morning to discuss the idea.

The merged company would produce 8.7 million vehicles annually and save €5bn (£4.4bn) for the companies each year by sharing research, purchasing and other activities, the FCA statement said.

The deal is not believed to involve plant closures but the statement did not address potential job cuts.

The French government, which owns 15 percent of Renault, approves of the idea of a merger with Fiat Chrysler but wants to study the conditions of the deal, government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye said.

“It is necessary that the conditions in which this merger takes place are at the same time favorable to the economic development of Renault, to its industrial development and obviously to the employees of Renault,” said Ms. Ndiaye.

However, a French government official told the Associated Press that France would prefer a merger of Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.

Investors welcomed Fiat Chrysler’s proposal – shares in both companies were up 12 percent in European trading.

Nissan Motor Co chief executive Hiroto Saikawa would not comment directly on the idea of a Renault-FCA merger but said: “I am always open to exchanging constructive views on strengthening the alliance.”

Fiat Chrysler has estimated that Nissan and Mitsubishi would make €1bn in savings a year from the deal, though it was not clear how the Japanese companies would respond to being in an alliance with a much larger partner.

Collaboration between carmakers has become increasingly important in recent years due to the need to improve technological capabilities for electric vehicles, net connectivity and artificial intelligence for vehicles.

As governments and regulators try to meet tougher pollution limits, carmakers are under more pressure to transition towards producing electric vehicles.

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