Fiat and Chrysler Group head Sergio Marchionne said in an interview published Sunday that he would need at least until "after 2015" to fully merge the two automakers and leave his post.
When asked how long he would stay in his job, Marchionne told the Detroit Free Press, said: "Nothing is going to happen until after 2015 -- unless I get hit by a bus."
The newspaper, which did not name its sources, said the merger of the Italian auto giant and the third-largest US carmaker could be complete as soon as 2013.
Fiat took over operational command of the ailing US automaker in June 2009, when Chrysler emerged from a government-supported bankruptcy. In June 2011, it took a majority stake and now controls 58.5 percent of the company.
The two groups still operate independently, even if Marchionne is the chief executive of both. The Agnelli family, which founded Fiat and is the main shareholder with a 30.4 percent stake, supports the merger.
Marchionne's comments echoed those he made in August 2011, when he said he planned to retire in about five years, but cautioned: "I wouldn't focus on the date, I'd focus on the process."
He also intends for Chrysler to launch an initial public offering before he leaves his post.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Marchionne was facing a difficult year at Chrysler, with only one major new product, the Dodge Dart, to be launched in 2012. The car is to be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show on Monday.
In 2013, Chrysler expects to launch eight new vehicles.