On July 25, 2018, the automotive industry lost a great leader and businessman, Sergio Marchionne. Sergio was known more recently as the eccentric, yet very successful CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after Cerberus had left Chrysler for dead in 2009. Sergio Marchionne was also a dual citizen of Canada as well, immigrating to the country at age 13 with his family to Toronto. In his earlier years, he attended numerous Toronto and Ontario institutions, building an education in different fields before heading up some global companies. Sergio was introduced into the automotive world as CEO in 2004 when he replaced the former, who was one of five different CEOs in a matter of two years at Fiat. Sergio managed to turn around Fiat very quickly by removing most of Fiat’s executive staff, laying off thousands of workers and striking a deal with General Motors to sell its stake. In doing this, Sergio managed to turn a profit within a year at Fiat and also helped to head up the Fiat 500 project. He also reduced product launch time from 4 years to 18 months.
In 2009, Fiat acquired Chrysler after Cerberus had cleaned them out and left them struggling and needing restructuring. Chrysler was able to get the bailout from the U.S. government and Sergio took Robert Nardelli’s position as CEO at Chrysler. Alike his start at Fiat, Sergio immediately put a plan in action and drastically changed Chrysler’s executive board, developed some new product plans by merging Fiat and Chrysler technologies and platforms to develop new powertrains and platforms. By 2011, Chrysler turned a profit for the first time in five years and quickly the company turned from having plenty of debt to profit. In 2014, Sergio also became CEO of Ferrari as well and sold off shares to the company to raise money to grow FCA into a global powerhouse with General Motors to overtake the likes of Volkswagen at the time. This was not successful as General Motors turned down the opportunity. Since then, FCA has continued to grow and turn a profit, especially with RAM and Jeep vehicles. In June, FCA showcased their 2021 plan to shareholders and Sergio showcased his pride in having a profit and money in the company by finally wearing a tie instead of his usually sweater. He presented the future plan to increase the Ram and Jeep brands as well as increasing profitability, vehicle options, hybrid and electric options, as well as global offerings from both brands. Marchionne was presenting this and the plan for FCA to continue successfully even after his retirement in early 2019.
This was Sergio’s last public event before experiencing complications after a surgery in July. He passed away shortly thereafter, also being replaced a few days before by Jeep and Ram CEO Mike Manley as FCA CEO. Sergio Marchionne was a great automotive businessman, a risk-taker and one who being eccentric worked in his favour with high intelligence. His legacy lives on in the turnaround of both these companies and at FCA where many were sad to hear of his passing.
RIP Sergio Marchionne – June 17, 1952 – July 25, 2018