China's Great Wall Motor signalled on Monday its intention to make an ambitious offer to buy all or part of Italian-American car maker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
A deal would be a major coup for the Chinese auto industry but it may cause political waves in the United States, where President Donald Trump has railed against his country's trade imbalance with the Asian giant.
Great Wall Motor ranks only as the seventh biggest Chinese auto company in terms of sales -- 1.07 million in China last year -- but any purchase of FCA would take the firm to another level.
"There is an intention to make the purchase," the Great Wall Motor spokeswoman told AFP, though she declined to say if the possible deal would be for the entire auto giant or just one of its brands.
The US car industry publication Automotive News reported earlier that Great Wall Motor president Wang Fengying had said in an email that her company intended to buy FCA's Jeep brand.
Jeep, Automotive News noted, is "the jewel in FCA's crown" as the brand's reputation dates back from World War II. Great Wall is known for its sport-utility vehicles, which are popular in China.
With sales of its models ebbing in the United States, a Chinese acquisition could offer a lifeline to Fiat Chrysler, in particular for its Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands.
A Fiat spokesman declined to comment while FCA's shares have soared on the Milan stock exchanges on reports of a potential deal.
"We are definitely going to take our intention to buy (FCA) seriously," the Chinese firm's spokeswoman said.
"As for the plans for later stages, doing what on which day, this is an issue for the strategy of the top management level," she said.
Great Wall's "interest in purchasing FCA highly fits our professional development path and strategy of globalisation", the spokeswoman said.