By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Rebuffed in public by General Motors brass, repeated overtures by Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) proposing a combination of the two auto giants, suggests that the stage is set for a big play – and possibly an ugly fight.

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Though GM CEO Mary Barra summarily dismissed the idea proposed by FCA boss Marchionne in an email, that doesn’t completely end the discussion. As a public company with a board of directors and many stockholders, including activist investors, Marchionne could force the issue and commence the classic hostile takeover.

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Though about to take a huge hit, with a likely multi-billion dollar Federal fine for wire fraud in connection with the ignition defect recall, and what is clearly emerging as a botched cover-up, General Motors is in strong shape in the marketplace, which would make any takeover bid challenging.

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With fuel prices low in recent years due to world oversupply, GM’s strength in the SUV and pick-up truck segments is delivering high margin sales, bolstering nearly $3 billion in profits in 2015. Though worldwide production integration could yield economies, product overlap in such a giant combination would be unwieldy.