Sergio Marchionne – The Automotive Giant
Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, passed away July 25, 2018. He became known as an automotive giant that saved not one, but two auto brands largely known today. Having moved from Italy to Toronto, Canada at age thirteen, Marchionne later went on to study business administration and law, earning a Master’s degree in both fields, and later became an accountant. It turns out that being an accountant, tax specialist, attorney, and business strategist is the perfect combination for entering the auto market.
Although Marchionne is most known for saving Chrysler from bankruptcy in 2009, when Fiat bought a 20-percent stake of the Chrysler Group LLC, he previously did the same for Fiat in 2004. It was the same year Marchionne was appointed CEO of the Fiat Group. To save the company, he negotiated an over $2 billion payment by General Motors to settle past contractual obligations with Fiat, restructured the debt, and quickly moved on to expand Fiat’s product line, investing another $10 billion to develop 20 new models in just four years.
After saving Chrysler, Marchionne was appointed the CEO of the automaker, then CEO of two different automotive companies. Later in 2011, Marchionne was elected the Chairman of Chrysler. Following this, Fiat and Chrysler were merged under his leadership on August 1, 2014, forming the now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles automotive group. Although Marchionne was perhaps the most provocative executive to lead Chrysler since Lee Iacocca (retired in the early 1990s), he preferred a tiny office near Chrysler’s technical center in a Detroit suburb so that he could regularly discuss future products with engineers, marketing executives, and product planners.
Marchionne continued to move boldly throughout the years, making tough choices to clear out product lines that were ultimately adding to capital waste and unnecessary funding. In 2017, the slow-selling Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans were killed off to make room for more Jeep and Ram vehicles, two auto brands under FCA known for pretty much keeping the auto group afloat in recent years, and partnered FCA with Waymo to bring early-stage autonomous driving to the Pacifica hybrid minivan. Today, that choice helped to make Waymo the first official driverless transportation network, certified in Phoenix, Arizona.
Following his passing, many spoke fondly of what Sergio Marchionne accomplished.
“ [He] created a remarkable legacy in the automotive industry.” – General Motors CEO Mary Barra
“The auto industry has lost a real giant.” – Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche
“I believe that the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us…My family and I will be forever grateful for what he has done…” – John Elkann, now Chairman of FCA.