The man, the myth, the legend

The sudden and unexpected death of Sergio Marchionne shook the auto industry to its core. In a business that prominently features larger-than-life personalities, Marchionne was a giant among men, a visionary whose bold creativity and unrelenting determination helped turn the fortunes of Chrysler from the brink of bankruptcy into one of the world’s most respected auto brands. It’s a devastating loss, but it also gives us a moment to reflect on the career of a man who was never afraid to buck trends and take chances. There’s no shortage of greatest hits in the Sergio Marchionne collection, and it is with utmost respect that we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments in the life of a truly memorable man.

The brutal honesty

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"Very poor execution," he said. "I think we sucked at the launch of the Levante."

In an industry where saying less is often construed as the path to least resistance, Sergio Marchionne wasn’t afraid to tell the truth, even if it meant criticizing himself and his own company. Just a few months ago, Marchionne told Motor Trend that Maserati could have done a better job bringing the Levante SUV to the market. “Very poor execution,” he said. "I think we sucked at the launch of the Levante."

Marchionne’s honest assessments of his company’s own missteps were refreshing. Back in 2014, Marchionne gave a speech at The Brookings Institute and flat-out encouraged the audience to not buy the Fiat 500e because, apparently, every time Fiat had to build one, it cost the company around $14,000.

You’re not going to find a man who was as candid and as impervious to the demands of the media as Marchionne was in his time as CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobile and Ferrari.

Embracing the trends of the industry

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Remember when Marchionne bluntly said that somebody would have to shoot him first before he signed off on developing a Ferrari SUV?

Remember when Marchionne bluntly said that somebody would have to shoot him first before he signed off on developing a Ferrari SUV?That happened in 2016 during a conversation with Bloomberg.

You could chalk it off to the famous Marchionne pride and bravado, but once it became clear that there was potential for supercar brands to make their mark in the crossover and SUV segments — Lamborghini and Bentley proved as much — Marchionne was quick to make a dramatic turn from his previous comments.
The result? Let’s just say that a Ferrari SUV is coming.

A man of his own style

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Nothing speaks more to the style and sensibilities of this man than a dark-colored sweater

You know the saying “the suit makes the man?” Well, it turns out that Marchionne not only doesn’t believe in that, but he actually doesn’t care enough to even bother hearing it.

When every other CEO in the business are seen dressed to the nines when they’re out in public, Marchionne has been consistent with his choice of wardrobe. Nothing speaks more to the style and sensibilities of this man than a dark-colored sweater. It doesn’t matter where he is or who he’s meeting — he famously wore his signature sweater in a meeting with President Donald Trump — nobody’s going to tell Sergio Marchionne to wear a suit and tie when there’s a sweater nearby.

If it stinks, throw it out

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Marchionne made the decision to bring back the Dart, and he also made the call to ax it completely three years later

This is the story of the Dodge Dart, a car that was reintroduced to so much promise in 2013 with Marchionne calling the shots. Unfortunately, the timing of the Dart’s return coincided with the start of the crossover and SUV boom, and the sedan never lived up to the hype. After just three years in the market, it was sent to the retirement home in favor of FCA putting more focus on crossovers and SUVs.

Marchionne made the decision to bring back the Dart, and he also made the call to ax it completely three years later. That kind of decisiveness is considered one of his most important qualities. He wasn’t afraid to take chances, and if those chances ended up blowing in his face, he wasn’t afraid to cut his company’s losses and move on to better things. You’re not going to find a lot of CEOs with the kind of resolute mindset as Marchionne.

The foresight on autonomous cars for commercial use

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What started with supplying just 100 units eventually exploded into a massive partnership that included an additional order from Waymo for 62,000 Pacifica minivans.

Sergio Marchionne has had some missteps in his time as FCA CEO. But the automaker’s partnership with Waymo, Google’s autonomous ride-sharing outfit, is regarded as one of his savviest moves. The two companies agreed to a deal that involved Chrysler supplying Pacifica minivans to Waymo as part of the latter’s research and development initiatives in smart mobility. What started with supplying just 100 units eventually exploded into a massive partnership that included an additional order from Waymo for 62,000 Pacifica minivans.

It’s a little too early to say if this partnership is going to bear fruit in the future, but at the rate it’s going, Marchionne’s plan to turn Chrysler into a mobility brand that can supply autonomous cars to different companies all over the world could serve as a major breakthrough for the automaker. We won’t know when that’s going to happen — or if it’s going to happen — but the partnership with Waymo has put Chrysler on the inside track to become one of the most prominent suppliers of autonomous cars to commercial enterprises.

Bringing the fight back to the Scuderia

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The team has yet to break its drought, but it has improved dramatically in recent years

It’s been ten years since Ferrari last won the Constructor’s title in Formula One. The decline reached a low point in 2013 when Ferrari finished fourth in the constructor’s race. It’s not a coincidence that when Sergio Marchionne was appointed president of the Prancing Horse, the Scuderia’s fortunes changed for the better.

The team has yet to break its drought, but it has improved dramatically in recent years, including a pair of second-place finishes and a third-place finish in the last three seasons. If anything, Marchionne is credited for helping the F1 team regain its footing in the series after a few seasons of being mired in mediocrity. Who knows, that 10-year drought could end this season as four-time defending champion Mercedes is ahead of Ferrari by only eight points with only half of the season in the books.

Alfa’s return to America

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Alfa Romeo’s return to the U.S. market is largely credited to Sergio Marchionne

Alfa Romeo’s return to the U.S. market is largely credited to Sergio Marchionne. The Italian marquee left the market in 1995 and it took 18 years and a bold decision from Marchionne for the company to return. Alfa’s first offering since its comeback, the 4C, didn’t generate the kind of volume sales he expected, but it played a far more important role in laying the foundation for the company’s two new models.

Fast forward to 2018 and Alfa Romeo has the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV as regular fixtures in the American market. More importantly, more models are on the way, including a pair of crossovers, a 600-horsepower hybrid sports car, and most importantly, the range-topping 8C supercar. Some people may have given up on the thought of seeing Alfa Romeo on U.S. shores, but Marchionne didn’t. He made it happen.

Taking Ferrari public

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He believed there was potential in taking Ferrari public and he made that leap in 2015

As recently as five years ago, the thought of Ferrari going its own way and becoming a publicly listed company seemed improbable, maybe even impossible. But Marchionne didn’t see it that way. He believed there was potential in taking Ferrari public and he made that leap in 2015 by filing all the necessary paperwork with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ferrari officially entered the stock market in 2016 under the stock symbol RACE. The company valued its shares between $48 and $52, and while those numbers initially scared some investors off, the Italian automaker has defied expectations and raced ahead to become one of the most impressive performers in the stock exchange. At the moment, the company’s stock is valued at just under $132. There weren’t a lot of people who believed in Marchioness vision of making Ferrari public back when he first floated the idea. Now, they’re raking in the moolah because of him.

The Chrysler turnaround and the birth of FCA

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Without question, Sergio Marchionne’s greatest accomplishment in all his years in the auto industry was saving Chrysler from complete bankruptcy

Without question, Sergio Marchionne’s greatest accomplishment in all his years in the auto industry was saving Chrysler from complete bankruptcy. As many of you know, the auto industry took a huge hit during the 2009 recession, and no company suffered more than Chrysler. The automaker had to rely on the U.S. government to keep it afloat and had it not been for Marchionne, there’s a possibility that Chrysler would be gone by now.

But upon taking over the company in 2009, Marchionne orchestrated a Fiat takeover that involved the Italian automaker acquiring Chrysler stock in small increments over a period of time. It took two years (2011) until Marchionne finally had majority control of Chrysler and another three years (2014) before the merger was completed, ushering the start of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles era.

None of that would’ve been impossible without Sergio Marchionne.

Further reading

Sergio Marchionne Out as FCA and Ferrari CEO After Complications With Surgery
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Sergio Marchionne, Savior of Chrysler, Has Passed Away at 66

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Read more FCA news.

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