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Analysis: Fiat/Chrysler’s executive council

by Bill Cawthon on

Six of the council positions are held by executives who were with Chrysler before June 2009 (Betts, Bigland, Chernoby, Lee and Manley). Another is held by Saad Chehab, who was brought in from Ford. Linda Knoll is an American who was brought over from Fiat Industrial’s CNH operation. Lorenzo Sistino (Fiat Professional) is the only Italian in charge of a brand.

The council is very international: there are eight Italians (Altavilla, Bellini, Coda, Gorlier, Ramaciotti, Razelli, Sistino and Tarantini), five Americans (Betts, Chehab, Chernoby, Knoll and Lee), two Brits (Manley and Palmer), two Germans (Ketter and Wester), a Canadian (Bigland), a Frenchman (Francois), a Brazilian (Fistarol) and a Swiss (despite the Italian name, Alessandro Baldi is Swiss). Marchionne, of course is Canadian-Italian, his residence is in Switzerland and the Italians are calling him American.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Ramaciotti got the Design post; he’s been over design for every Fiat brand except Ferrari since before Fiat was involved with Chrysler.

I am surprised no one mentioned Fred Diaz, who also was left off the committee. However, I am thinking that since SRT and Ram are primarily North American products, Diaz and Gilles may still report directly to Marchionne. When he’s wearing his design hat, Gilles may report to Ramaciotti, just as Diaz might report to Sistino or Bigland, depending on where Marchionne slots Ram. But Ram is such a big part of Chrysler’s North American sales, it’s hard to see Diaz reporting to anyone but Marchionne.

You can read a lot into Marchionne taking NAFTA. Marchionne likes Chrysler and sees it as an important contributor to the bottom line. He has also had so many battles with the Italian labor unions and the Italian government that he actually might be leaving future battles to Gianni Coda. This could mean that Fiat’s physical headquarters will remain in Turin, but the operational headquarters will be in Auburn Hills. Marchionne’s got Canadian citizenship and Windsor is just across the river.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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