Auto legend Sergio Marchionne, the charismatic government who turned Fiat and Chrysler round earlier than combining the businesses as a worthwhile enterprise, died Wednesday. He was 66.
“Sadly, what we feared has come to go. Sergio Marchionne, man and pal, is gone,” John Elkann, a member of Fiat’s founding Agnelli household, mentioned in an announcement.
Fiat Chrysler ( (FCA) had introduced Marchionne’s )abrupt resignation as CEO on Saturday, citing “surprising problems” whereas he was recovering from surgical procedure. Marchionne was additionally chief government of Ferrari, and each FCA and Ferrari introduced successors who took instant management of the businesses.
Over a protracted profession, Marchionne left an indelible mark on the business. He was the CEO of Fiat when it purchased Chrysler out of chapter in 2009 following a US authorities bailout. The businesses merged about 4 years in the past.
He was identified for his witty feedback, fearless resolution making, trademark black sweaters and an aversion to neckties.
At a convention in 2013, as Fiat and Chrysler started churning out extra car fashions, he advised the press: “I’ve bought all my manufacturing begin dates tattooed in non-public elements, and I can inform you it is getting crowded.”
Those that knew Marchionne described him as a assured chief with an unbelievable work ethic.
He was identified to juggle “4, 5, six telephones and lived on an airplane,” Rebecca Lindland, government analyst at Kelley Blue Ebook, mentioned. “I’d by no means wager in opposition to Marchionne,” she added.
Born in Chieti, Italy, on June 17, 1952, Marchionne got here to the auto business as an outsider when he left SGS S.A., a well being inspection agency, to move Italian automaker Fiat in 2004. He took over after Umberto Agnelli, whose household based Fiat in 1899, died of most cancers.
In Marchionne’s early days at Fiat, he minimize center administration jobs and lowered wages to assist reduce the corporate’s multi-billion greenback losses. About two years after Marchionne took over, Fiat turned its first revenue in 5 years.
“We spit blood to scrub up and restart Fiat,” he was quoted as saying by British information retailers concerning the turnaround.
As the worldwide auto business was shaken by the monetary disaster within the late 2000s, there was critical doubt that American icon Chrysler would survive. The agency was shepherded by means of chapter by the Obama administration after officers initially thought of permitting the corporate to go underneath.
In 2009, Fiat made a take care of Chrysler that queued up Fiat to turn out to be the first stakeholder within the American firm, and Marchionne was put in as CEO.
Below his management, the corporate finally emerged as a debt-free, worthwhile international automaker.
Marchionne defended the US authorities’s involvement in conserving Chrysler afloat. He advised CNN’s Poppy Harlow in a 2011 interview that anybody who thinks Chrysler might have survived with out that help was “smoking unlawful materials.”
He was additionally identified to be open about his firms’ failures. After the Dodge Caliber did not catch on in the US, Marchionne in 2012 faulted the design and referred to as the car an “abomination.”
In 2014, he urged clients to not purchase the Fiat 500e electrical automobile. “I hope you do not purchase it as a result of each time I promote one it prices me $14,000,” he mentioned at a Washington convention, in response to Reuters.
Marchionne pushed to totally merge Chrysler with Fiat, brushing apart those that mentioned the American and Italian manufacturers would by no means work as a mixed firm.
Fiat Chrysler Cars was listed on the New York Inventory Change in 2014.
In 2017, FCA offered 2 million automobiles in the US, greater than double its gross sales in the dead of night days of 2009. Globally, FCA offered 4.7 million automobiles final 12 months.
Final month, Marchionne wore a necktie for the primary time in years at a Fiat Chrysler occasion in Italy. He talked concerning the firm’s robust monetary efficiency.
However FCA nonetheless has some issues. The corporate is a distant third in US gross sales and eighth globally. The corporate has additionally trailed its opponents in adopting electrical car and self-driving expertise, which many deem the business’s inevitable future.
Along with heading FCA, Marchionne served as chairman of business tools agency CNH and chairman and CEO of Ferrari, which spun off from FCA years in the past.
In recent times, Marchionne had spoken overtly of his want to discover a merger associate for Fiat Chrysler. He had been way more blunt than different auto executives concerning the risk to the business that new entrants comparable to Google ( posed to old-line automakers. )
After President Donald Trump’s inauguration final 12 months, he notably stood other than different business executives by insisting FCA would have invested in American manufacturing whether or not Trump publicly referred to as for these investments or not.
“I want I might give [Trump] credit score for this. However the pondering was in place beforehand,” he mentioned.
And in 2015, throughout labor talks with the United Car Staff union, he was the primary amongst his friends to come back out in opposition to the business’s two-tier wage system as unsustainable. It had allowed automakers to pay new hires decrease wages within the title of saving money within the wake of the monetary meltdown.
“There cannot be two courses for individuals who do the identical work,” Marchionne advised reporters on the Detroit auto present in January, in response to stories.
CNNMoney (New York) First printed July 25, 2018: 6:18 AM ET