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Marchionne to retire in 2018

by Bill Cawthon on

According to statements made to Bloomberg Businessweek, Fiat Chrysler Automobile CEO Sergio Marchionne says he plans to retire in 2018 at the completion of the current five-year plan.

That would make Mr. Marchionne, currently the longest-serving CEO of any major European or American automaker, 66 years old when he collects his gold watch. (Carlos Ghosn became CEO of Nissan in 2000, but didn’t become CEO of Renault until 2005, a year after Marchionne took over at Fiat.)

“I’ll undoubtedly do something else” Marchionne said. “I am not going to do any more turnarounds. I’m done; let some of the young punks do it.”

Sergio MarchionneMarchionne said that more than one person may be needed to fill his role. The FCA boss will add the chairmanship of Ferrari to his large hat collection next Sunday, the effective date of Luca Cordero di Montezemolo’s resignation.

“There are a number of things that the next CEO will do which are totally different from what I do. The role as presently configured will have to be reconfigured.”

There are strong candidates for the position, including Jeep CEO and Asia/Pacific/China region COO Mike Manley; Alfredo Altavilla, COO of the European/Middle East/Africa region and a Chrysler board member from 2009 to 2013; and Cledorvino Belini, COO of the Latin American region. All are members of the Group Executive Council.

Mr. Manley is the youngest of the three, and will be 54 when Marchionne retires. Mr. Altavilla, who has been one of Marchionne’s go-to guys for years, is a year older and is regarded by many as the most likely successor. Mr. Belini, who is three years older than Marchionne, would be 69 in 2018, which might be an issue.

FCA Chairman John Elkann, who is not on the list, would be 42 when Marchionne retires. Mr. Elkann said that he likes the current structure where an Agnelli family member is the chairman and a professional manager is the top executive: “I’m comfortable with the bench we have. We have strong candidates.”

As to what he might do after his years in the business world, Marchionne cited other interests, including theoretical physics.

“You’re asking me if there are other things I like to do apart from this?” he said. “Phenomenally, yes. I like to be able to think, and that’s not always possible in this job.”

More automotive mergers likely

Fiat Chrysler Automobile isn’t even trading yet, but Marchionne said he sees a merger creating the next top global automaker. He repeated that consolidation will be necessary to ensure capital for product development, and that a suitable partner would be a manufacturer with a strong presence outside of Europe.

In separate comments, Mr. Elkann noted that, while they are not looking for another partner, FCA “will be ready to participate” over the next five to 10 years “if it makes sense.”

Mr. Marchionne was interviewed at the test track in Balocco, Italy, about 37 miles northeast of Turin, after taking his Ferrari Enzo on a 186 mph spin around the track.

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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