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Sergio on his successor

by David Zatz on

In Sergio Marchionne’s own words:

There have been times in the last 12 years that I’ve been running this business when one could claim it was sort of the right time to hand it over. In 2004, for those of you who have short memories, we were losing five million dollars a day at Fiat before Chrysler. We cleaned all that stuff up and we made the highest operating profit in our history in 2008, in 109 years of history. And one could claim that was it. … Then the bankers screwed the world over and we ended up in the worst financial crisis anybody can remember.

Sergio and some executives

…Chrysler, in the year when I showed up, lost a billion dollars in a month. I ended up picking up this other thing and saying, “Now we’ve got to fix this one.”

So you get to a point where you can spend the rest of your life just fixing things. And Fiat mistakes, Chrysler mistakes, there’s going to be a point in time when you need to stop fixing. The important thing is to leave this thing in the healthiest possible states that you can leave it in to allow the next leadership class to take it.

My obligation is twofold between now and sometime in ’19 when I get out. It’s to leave the house in the best possible shape that I can find it and to find my successor.

…the washing machine rocks pretty hard and you’ve got to be able to go through the wash cycle. A lot of these people handle multiple functions. They’re forced to undertake international assignments. This is a big place. We’re going to sell nearly five million cars. We’re going to get over five million by 2018, whatever that number is. And we’re running four operating divisions which have got completely different attributes.

If you look at our competitors and you exclude for a moment the premium makers, the premium brands, I don’t know of another automaker that makes money across the globe in all regions. So we all sit here in Detroit and sort of pat ourselves on the back on the fact that North America margins are healthy, then you look at Latin America and what they do in Europe and there’s not been a lot of success.

… the objective here is to groom a guy that understands that objective and doesn’t end up being so regionally-focused that he forgets what the mandate is. The mandate is to be a global CEO. It’s not to be sort of the Detroit car maker. … The world is a big place and we forget that from here.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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