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Who will take over from Sergio?

by David Zatz on

While Sergio Marchionne had said (in 2015) that he might be willing to stick around at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles until 2020 if needed, the 65-year-old leader has more recently set his retirement goal at 2018 or 2019.

Marchionne continually moves between Auburn Hills and Turin, and works exceptionally long hours, all while under the media spotlight.  Still, some doubt that he is willing to leave next year; one Allpar (“valiant67”) forum member commented,

Replacement Sergio has been delayed for a few years. In the mean time, there will be new sweater colors and trim packages while the G-based replacement is on hold.

All kidding aside, Automotive News quoted Marchionne two years ago as saying, “My purpose in life is to find the Kuniskises of the world, the Manleys, the Biglands, the Palmers.” That may contain some hint as to his replacement.

These are the heads of Dodge, Jeep, US and Canada sales, and the FCA CFO. All came from the Chrysler side, not the Fiat side. They range in age from 48 to 51. Curiously, Olivier Francois, Pietro Gorlier,  Harald Wester, and Alfredo Altavilla (53). were not in that list. Neither was Ralph Gilles, who is highly regarded by enthusiasts and was once seen as a potential replacement; some believe he voluntarily stepped aside due to the time commitments.

Marchionne said he needed to allow potential leaders to make mistakes, but to take responsibility for them. He also indicated, in 2015, that the company would hire its next CEO from within; that may or may not have changed amidst reports that FCA is widening its search.

Bloomberg News reported that Marchionne’s retirement date is now set at April 2019.  Chances are, the next CEO would delegate far more than Sergio Marchionne does; and may not place a merger or acquisition as a priority. (Mr. Marchionne has allegedly stated his belief that FCA is too small and must link up with a partner enough times to earn him the nickname “Mergio” among some employees.)

Some believe that Marchionne’s retirement would also finally take the company off its “emergency footing,” resulting in an exceptionally fast pace of work, long hours for many workers, and numerous changes in plan since 2009.

Sergio Marchionne’s legacy will include having saved two failing automakers, rebuilt the entire product lines of both companies, creating a merger that worked exceptionally well for its kind, and rebuilding Alfa Romeo.

In early 2009, few thought Chrysler was viable, and no other company stood up to acquire, merge, or partner with it; under Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler has delivered high profits, gained market share and credibility, in-sourced previously outsourced parts, rebuilt numerous factories, and added tens of thousands of jobs, in both engineering and production.  That will be a hard act to follow.

Join the Allpar Forums discussion in progress.

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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