A couple days ago, we noticed a slight gag about Fiat Chrysler’s CEO. He had stepped down prematurely due to health issues. But, on his Wikipedia page it had reported he had died. This, ultimately wasn’t the case. What we did know is, he was very ill in a hospital in Switzerland after a shoulder operation to remove a tumour. After we wrote our previous article. It came to out that Sergio Marchionne had suffered a stroke. Sadly though, he passed away this morning ages 66
We never gave Sergio Marchionne much attention. But who was he? A chartered accountant and lawyer with dual Canadian and Italian citizenship, Marchionne began working in Canada at Deloitte & Touche, then moved on to packaging producer Lawson Group. In 1994, Marchionne joined Alusuisse Lonza Group. After the Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical company acquired the lawson group. Here in the UK and as well in the rest of Europe. Fiat’s have struggled to sell. We were always under the impression that he was strangling the Fiat division of cars by offering cars that were the same price as other brands new, better made offerings. The Punto for example, which is now no longer produced, waned on and on and on. By that time Ford were offering the mk7 Fiesta. Which blew Fiats offering out the water. The fact is, Sergio could take credit of saving the auto industry. He was appointed CEO of Fiat in 2004. With the aim of reducing the companies woeful debt, 10 billion GBP to be exact. Nothing much happened around this time. But his most successful decision came when in 2009, Chrysler Group LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Sergio Marchionne bought 20 percent of Chrysler. Even with a rather small share holding, he was appointed CEO of Chrysler along with Fiat. By 2011, only 2 years after Marchionne bought a 20 percent stake. Chrysler became profitable and returned all of its government loans. This was done through clever marketing and a lot of attention paid to popular new Chrysler models. In 2014, Marchionne merged Fiat and Chrysler into one brand. Becoming the now well known Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. They are still amongst the top ten automobile manufacturers in the world. Meanwhile, Sergio Marchionne was also the chairman of Ferrari. Who decided in a very clever move to take Ferrari public in January 2016. Ferrari split from the Fiat group due to this. But Over the passed 2 years, shares have almost doubled in price. And arguably, Ferrari have never made better cars over the passed 3 years. They are now the most valuable car company in the world with a share price of 131.9 USD as of writing. They recently just announced their latest sales figures. Showing that Ferrari have never done better in all of their 71 year history. My personal favourite thing Marchionne did was completely transform Alfa Romeo from the high end consumer market into the luxury car market. Alfa’s new cars, Giulia and Stelvio have brought in a huge amount of money for The Fiat Chrysler group. With a clear roadmap of new models coming, its only going to get better for Alfa.
It hasn’t all been perfect for Marchionne though. But nothing in life is perfect. As we mentioned before, Fiat have dwindled badly. But the one that sticks out the most is Maserati. Who for the last 6 years have offered 2 lacklustre models for far too long with nothing more than a facelift. A GranToruismo replacement (the Alfieri) which was teased at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show still hasn’t arrived. The only good news to come out of Maserati of late is a V8 version of its Levante SUV. But this will improve over the next few years.
The next question is. Will Mike Manley, the new CEO of Fiat Chrysler; be a worthy and a visionary successor to Marchionne? I guess we shall wait and see. We would like to give our condolences to the Marchionne Family at this time. The automotive world has lost some serious courage.
By Clarke Mackinnon