He was born in Chieti, on the Italian Adriatic coast, as the son of a carabiniere or state police officer, on June 17, 1952. His father was a wise man, with a keen sense of money and savings, and he had invested enough to retire early. He decided to give his family a bright future in Canada. When young Sergio was 14, they moved across the ocean to Toronto.
His studies gave him a broad view…
Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of FCA, was not altogether a pure “auto” person, rather on the contrary. This prepared him to become an outstanding manager. Just look at what he studied. He started at the University of Toronto with philosophy, earned himself a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Windsor, in Ontario, and finally obtained a law degree in 1983 at the Osgoode Hall of York University. He began his career as … a tax specialist.
Luca De Meo, CEO Fiat Automobiles, and Sergio Marchionne, then CEO Fiat Group Automobiles, with the Fiat 500 (2007)
Broad business experience made him an ideal crisis manager…
This keen sense for numbers and figures made him the ideal manager to work out successful turnarounds and save companies from the brink. He moved to a metals trading firm and was also very successful in a trade services company. A broad experience in trading and business together with an excellent mastery of English, French and Italian gave him many possibilities, and having forged himself an enviable reputation of a crisis manager, he was spotted by the Agnelli family, seen as the right person on the right place to save the ailing Fiat company. The fact that he had a broad non-automotive experience was rather seen as an asset. He was appointed CEO of Fiat in 2004, and started with the necessary reforms to lighten the debt burden as soon as possible. He knew soon enough about the existing deal between G.M. and Fiat, and first tried to force G.M. into purchasing Fiat. General Motors had other plans, so Marchionne obtained 2 billion USD in compensation from G.M. to allow them to step out of the alliance. Money he put to good use to rejuvenate the model range, with the 500 being the all-time star.
Mike Manley and Sergio Marchionne with the new Jeep Renegade (09/2014)
A second success with Chrysler/Jeep…
Marchionne knew that automakers with global ambitions also need to have a solid base in the US market, and amidst the 2008 crisis he made clear to the US Treasury that he would be prepared to take control of Chrysler and revive it using the excellent state of the art Fiat group technology he had at his disposal.
He also knew very well that the Chrysler creditors and unions were putting hard pressure on the US Treasury, so he decided to up the ante to the beleaguered US government to ask them to hand over Chrysler to him… for free.
He succeeded, and the good results are known to everybody. Especially the dramatic turnaround of Jeep made the FCA Group now a profitable giant.
He was planning to retire in 2019, but fate has decided otherwise, as a result of unexpected complications after a shoulder surgery on July 5.
Fate has it too that his last official public appearance on last June 26, was to hand over in Rome at a ceremony in the grounds of the Carabinieri High Command, in the presence of Commander-in-Chief Giovanni Nistri, the liveried Jeep Wrangler.(see the accompanying photo).
He is succeeded by Mike Manley, (see photo above), the head of Fiat Chrysler’s North America operations and its Jeep and Ram truck brands.
Hans Knol ten Bensel