Sergio Marchionne, 1952-2018 Auto industry heavy-hitter who took on the challenge of transforming the fortunes of Fiat and AIfa Romeo, and succeeded, succumbs to complications following shoulder surgery…
Sergio Marchionne – chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and chairman and CEO of Ferrari – has passed away following complications after shoulder surgery. The 66-year-old had been admitted to Zurich University Hospital for a routine procedure but passed away on Wednesday 25 July.
‘Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,’ confirmed John Elkann, of the FCA-controlling Agnelli family, in a statement.
Marchionne joined Fiat in 2003, when the then ailing Italian car maker was on the verge of bankruptcy, posting a loss of €6billion. Within two years he had turned the loss into a profit, helped considerably by securing €2billion from an alliance with GM. He also laid off thousands of workers, embarked on an ambitious new model plan and insisted new models should be brought to market within 18 months and not the four years it had been taking. In 2009 he orchestrated the deal to take control of Chrysler, saving it from bankruptcy and giving Fiat and Alfa Romeo a foothold in the United States.
Along with increasing the company’s value tenfold, he was also instrumental in floating Ferrari on the New York Stock Exchange in 2015. He was due to present the supercar manufacturer’s latest strategy in September.
A workaholic who expected similar levels of commitment from his management team, Marchionne spread his time between Turin, London and Detroit, fuelled on espresso and tobacco until a year ago when he gave both up. An exec who divided opinion on how you should manage a global car business, his approach wasn’t favoured by all, most notably the unions and politicians who objected to his job cuts and cost-cutting.
There was no disputing the results he achieved, however. Under his leadership, Fiat Group sales grew from 320,000 units in 2009 and are expected to reach 1.2 million (now as FCA) in 2018. Fiat may no longer be competitive in the volume markets, but its 500 model has been a great success and profit-spinner, and Alfa Romeo’s resurgence can be traced back to Marchionne’s refusal to give up on a plan. In a world of suits and corporate blather, Marchionne’s no-nonsense approach will be sorely missed.
A month before his passing, Marchionne had delivered his latest strategy for Alfa. Building on the success of the Giulia and Stelvio, he laid out a blueprint for a successor to the 8C, in the guise of a 700bhp, two-seater hybrid supercar, as well as a Giulia-based 2+2 GTV coupe. Two new SUVs are also planned to arrive before 2022. The target set was for Alfa to deliver 400,000 cars a year in four years’ time.
The plans for Ferrari were no less ambitious. Having confirmed the iconic supercar maker was to succumb to the pressures of building an SUV, there is every possibility he was set to confirm the return of a smaller, six-cylinder car as a spiritual successor to the Dino.
What becomes of those strategies will now be down to the men taking on Marchionne’s roles. Brit Mike Manley will take up the position of FCA’s chief executive officer, while Elkann is now chairman of Ferrari. Louis C Camilleri is set to be appointed new CEO of Ferrari. All three have big ambitions to fulfil.