When someday in the future people look back at the resurgence of Volvo, they will think about either Li Shufu or Hakan Samuelsson. If people reflect on the growth of Mercedes-Benz in the modern age they’ll think of Dr. Dieter Zetsche, and if they think about Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, they will no doubt think about Martin Winterkorn. With the exception of the last example, there are many more names than the three cited that can talk about great automotive turnarounds.
But they revived one company each. The late Sergio Marchionne turned around two. And then increased their value tenfold.
The Italian-Canadian executive, whose first dip into the automotive industry came with his appointment to head Fiat some 14-years ago, eventually became quite the fixture in the world of cars. The chainsmoking, espresso-chugging Marchionne then took over Chrysler in 2009 (just 5-years after joining Fiat), and proceeded to bring both the loss-making companies back into the pink of financial health.
A workaholic, Marchionne stopped at nothing to make Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as lean as humanly possible. In his first years he poured over employee files and trimmed the fat, replacing low-performing staff with younger, fresher faces who were full of ideas and ready to innovate. He cut the time needed to bring a new car to market from 4-years to just 18-months, and progressively moved FCA’s products from the bygone era firmly into the 21st century.
He also spun-off Ferrari into its own separate entity, but that’s another story altogether.
Marchionne quickly gained a reputation for moving fast, leaving only the trace of Muratti cigarettes and an espresso cup. It seemed that whatever momentum he carried from behind the wheel of one of his six Ferraris was brought straight into the offices of Fiat Chrysler, and decided in 2006 that he would only wear black sweaters & jeans from then on to prevent any threat to that momentum.
But it seemed that after what would have been 15 years in the auto industry, he had had enough. After announcing earlier this year that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had finally squared its debt and can now pounce on the future wholeheartedly, he confirmed to the world his intent to step down in 2019, and enjoy his retirement. Alas, the world had different plans.
“I am not going to do anymore turnarounds. I’m done; Let some of the young punks do it.” — Sergio Marchionne, 2014
Though there will never be a replacement for Sergio Marchionne, succession plans that were supposed to be set in motion upon his retirement next year have been sped up. As such, Mike Manley will now take the helm of Fiat Chrysler while the CEO’s chair at Ferrari will go to Louis C. Camilleri, the former CEO of Phillip Morris International while the chairmanship of the Maranello marque will be taken up by John Elkann, the boss of EXOR and majority shareholder in both FCA & Ferrari.
Stay tuned to CarShowroom as we bring you more updates as they come.