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New FCA team coming, raising more questions

by David Zatz on

John Elkann, chair of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said that CEO Mike Manley will announce a new management team by the end of the month. Manley has now been in office since July 21, and had already been designated as the “heir apparent” when the legendary Sergio Marchionne died.

Manley has led Jeep, Ram, and the Asia-Pacific region, and took over Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) when Alfred Altavilla left in July.

The term “new management team” conjures up hefty changes, and  Manley might well reorganize the company as well as moving people around. Marchionne put people in charge of more than one facet of the organization, such as a brand and a region, or a function and a brand or region. Executives ended up with multiple perspectives, which was good, but capable people could turn down their promotion to avoid work overload; or not being able to do either job well when faced with too much.

Manley is also likely to appoint new people to lead Jeep, Ram, and the various regions. The favorite for Jeep is likely Jim Morrison, an off-road enthusiast who is outgoing, well-spoken, and likely to get along with people inside and outside of the company.

Jim Morrison with Grand CherokeeJim Morrison (photo: David Zatz)

Ram is a bit tougher for us to predict; Mike Cairns, the chief engineer, would be a good candidate, but the company might not want him to leave his current post. On the engineering side, there are also chief engineers for the various product lines, including Michael Raymond, who was also the engineering manager for the LH and LX cars from 2000 to 2008, and Elizabeth Krear, who was responsible not only for the Ram 1500 but also for the current Jeep Wrangler (she has also been program manager for the Dodge Journey, after working her way up through design and packaging, powertrain engineering, and safety systems development).

Reid Bigland is also a possibility for running Ram — or Europe; he has headed Alfa Romeo and Maserati, Ram Truck, and Freightliner Custom Chassis, and is currently head of US sales and the CEO of FCA Canada. His role could also be split up, putting him in charge of either Canada or US sales.

It seems likely that Ram and Jeep will both be headed by people from the American side. There are a huge number of possibilities for overseeing Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and Manley could choose to split the regions, so more than one person is responsible for them. That might help spur sales in Africa, where FCA is a relatively minor player.

Many will be looking to the announcements, not just to see who takes which positions, but to see whether Manley ends Marchionne’s traditional massive spans of control. Even two years ago, when the identity of the new CEO was unknown, some observers believed that a new CEO could help the company by reducing the spans of control and workload of FCA leaders, taking FCA out of crisis mode, and reducing the pace at which product plans changed; at least one of those issues should be addressed by the end of the month.

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