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Analysis: Marchionne’s new team

by Bill Cawthon on

When Sergio Marchionne announced the members of his new executive team, there were lots of Monday-morning quarterbacks questioning his choices. At first glance, the picks seem to favor Fiat veterans and pass over Chrysler favorites like Ralph Gilles. The truth is Marchionne has packed his bench with both strength and depth, without regard for nationality or corporate affiliation.

The most important thing to remember is that the Group Executive Council (GEC) is part of the process of merging Chrysler and Fiat into a strong worldwide automaker. This means people with experience in many different markets.

Gianni Coda (Chief Operating Officer, Western and Eastern Europe): Coda has been with Fiat since 1979 and on Fiat’s Group Executive Council since 2006. While Dan Knott, head of purchasing for Chrysler, has solid credentials, Coda has international experience as well as far more experience in the give-and-take of purchasing; he’ll need both in his new role. The appointments of Coda as COO for Europe and Olivier Francois as brand leader for Fiat are especially significant as they are effectively replacing Marchionne in Italy. As has been mentioned previously, Marchionne’s fights with Italy’s powerful unions and the Italian government have created a rift that probably can no longer be bridged. Coda and Francois have to implement Marchionne’s directions and strategies with the diplomacy that isn’t part of Marchionne’s personality.

Cledorvino Bellini (COO, Latin America): Bellini was not only the head of Fiat’s Latin American operations, he was born in Sao Paulo and was president of Anfavea, Brazil’s national automotive vehicle association. Brazil is a crucial market for Fiat, which is currently the leading brand, but the competition is fierce because Brazil is one of the fourth automotive markets with the most growth potential for the future. Chrysler didn’t have anyone who could match Bellini.

Michael Manley (COO, Asia): Manley comes from DaimlerChrysler; he joined the company in 2000. He’s been in charge of Chrysler’s international sales since 2007. He is also the brand leader for Jeep, which Marchionne sees as the Chrysler division with the strongest international potential. Jeep has been in China almost continuously since American Motors opened a joint venture there in 1984. Manley’s been doing market development since joining DaimlerChrysler eleven years ago and he will be tasked with not only keeping Jeep rocking in North America but introducing other Fiat and Chrysler products into the Asia-Pacific countries. This means more than just production, it means distribution, dealerships and support. The big targets are China and India.

Pietro Gorlier (COO, Mopar) and Eugenio Razelli (COO, Components): Gorlier has a strong customer service and dealer background while Razelli has been CEO of Magneto Marelli Powertrain since 2005. This is the one surprise on the GEC: It’s somewhat like having a CEO for Dodge cars and another for Dodge light trucks, like the Caravan and Nitro. It will be interesting to see the tasks each is assigned.

Riccardo Tarantini (COO, Systems & Casting): Tarantini was CEO of Comau, a Fiat subsidiary that makes automated production systems for the automotive and aerospace industries. He’s was also CEO of Teksid, the Fiat unit that produces castings for the automotive industry. As COO, he will still be responsible for those companies and expanding their markets.

The brand leaders include surprisingly few Italians. In fact, there’s only one: Lorenzo Sistino at Fiat Professional. The question mark in a lot of people’s minds was Saad Chehab, who will be integrating Chrysler and Lancia. Since the ultimate goal is to have a common product line sold with different badging in various markets, there only needed to be one brand leader. Saad Chehab was brought in from Ford, where he was in charge of real estate and dealership construction, to lead Chrysler brand advertising. Marchionne met him and was impressed by his ideas. It turned out Chehab, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, but has lived in Detroit since his college days, was a good choice; he worked with Wieden + Kennedy on the “Imported from Detroit” campaign and Marchionne is hoping he can also fire up consumer interest in Chrysler and Lancia on an international level.

Harald Wester (Brand Leader, Alfa/Abarth/Maserati and Chief Technical Officer): Wester began his career at Volkswagen, moved to Audi and then Ferrari where he was in charge of product development, so he comes by his performance chops honestly. In 2002, he joined Magna Steyr (the company that used to handle some of Chrysler’s European production) as Chief Technical Officer. In 2004, he came to Fiat where he was named CTO for Fiat Group. In 2008, he became CEO of Maserati. Abarth was added in 2009 and Alfa in 2010. Wester will have an important job because Marchionne believes Alfa, like Jeep, has the most potential in the international market. One of the reasons some U.S. dealers signed up for Fiat is to get preferential treatment when the Alfa Romeo franchises for North America are passed out. Scott Kunselman will report to Wester.

As I assumed, Ralph Gilles remains the head of SRT, reporting to Marchionne, and head of Chrysler design, reporting to Ramaciotti. Fred Diaz is still in charge of Ram and also reports directly to Marchionne. They were not added to the GEC because SRT and Ram are primarily North American brands, and while Ram may have some potential in markets like Australia, it would also need a smaller pickup to compete with the various compacts sold in the land down under. What might be really interesting is a reborn Magnum configured as one of Australia’s popular “utes.”

Incidentally, Ferrari is not represented on the GEC because it is treated as a separate company. Though Fiat owns most of the stock, Ferrari has its own board of directors, headed by Marchionne, and its own CEO, Luca Cordero Montezemolo.

Lorenzo Ramaciotti (Industrial Process Leader, Design): Marchionne brought Ramaciotti out of retirement to be head of design for Fiat Group automobiles and Maserati, so it’s no surprise he got the nod for the GEC position. He will have Ralph Gilles, Roberto Giolito (Fiat) and Marco Tencone (Alfa Romeo & Lancia) reporting to him. Ramaciotti spent most of his career at Pininfarina where he was CEO. At Pininfarina he developed approximately 20 concept cars several of which won international awards. He also developed the Maserati Quattroporte, as well as some of the Ferrari 550 Maranello, 360 Modena, and Enzo, as well as the current Ferrari F430 and 612 Scaglietti.

Stefan Ketter (Industrial Process Leader, Manufacturing Technology and Coordination): Ketter was born in Brazil but moved to Germany for college. He has been with BMW, Volkswagen and Audi and has worked in Europe, Latin American and the United States. He joined Fiat in 2004 and was named chief manufacturing officer for Fiat Group in 2008. With his international manufacturing experience, Ketter was a natural pick for the GEC post. Scott Garberding will report to Ketter.

Vilmar Fistarol (Industrial Process Leader, Group Purchasing) Dan Knott’s new boss has had purchasing responsibilities since 1991 and lots of experience in Latin America. Knott’s role really isn’t diminished, he’s still in charge of Chrysler purchasing. He could be a successor to Fistarol.

Alessandro Baldi (Support Process Leader, Fiat Services and Holdings): Baldi has been Fiat Group Controller since August 2004. He has also been CFO for Fiat Group Automobiles since July 2010. He his career in audit and finance goes back to 1981 when he started with Ernst & Young in Switzerland. It’s worth noting that of all the finance guys, Richard Palmer was selected as CFO for the group.

Alfredo Alavilla (Support Process Leader, Business Development): Altavilla is the CEO of Iveco and is on the board of Chrysler Group. He has been with Fiat since 1990 and has experience in international ventures including a stint as head of Fiat Auto’s Beijing office and later as9 head of Asian Operations. He has been Fiat’s lead in business development since 2001 and by 2004 he was responsible for all of Fiat’s alliances.

Linda Knoll (Support Process Leader, Human Resources) Knoll is currently head of HR for Fiat Industrial the truck and heavy equipment company spun off from Fiat Group in January. In addition to experience in HR, she has executive experience in manufacturing and product development for companies like Case and General Dynamics.

What Marchionne has done is assemble a team capable of taking on the world. It’s also worth noting the Council members are all people capable of handling multiple assignments from Beijing, China to Belo Horizonte, Brazil to Belivdere, Illinois. And they are all tasked with working together because neither company is the master. And that’s the best possible outcome for Chrysler, which for at least the next few years, will be Sergio’s bailiwick.

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, 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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