New Boss at Fiat Chrysler Begins Post-Marchionne Era

The new Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley is facing the daunting task of executing the plan of his predecessor to keep the seventh-largest automaker worldwide competitive if a merger does not come to fruition.

The head of the Jeep division was named Saturday to succeed CEO Sergio Marchionne, one of the most respected and tenacious CEOs in the auto industry, who became seriously ill following surgery due to unnamed complications.

Marchionne was scheduled to hand over the reins on the automaker in April of 2019, but shares dipped at the open Monday by 4% across Europe, due to the sudden change.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA said Manley, who was born in Britain, would pursue strategy that was outlined in June by Marchionne.

The automaker pledged to increase its production of SUVs and to invest more in hybrid and electric vehicles to double its operating profit over the next four years. It unveiled as well bold targets for Jeep, which is now FCA’s ticket to creating a brand that is high-margin with appeal worldwide.

Analysts said choosing Manley, who is 54, under whose tutelage Jeep has seen its sales surge by four-fold, sends a message that the automaker was remaining on course and would keep its Jeep brand as the center of its plan for growth.

One Wall Street analyst said that Manley is aware that the primary focus he will have is executing and that he and his team already have a strategy that they already have bought into, and no reason exists as to why they cannot execute the 2022 plan.

The company, under Manley, is expected to pinpoint focus on the revamp of specific brands such as Fiat across Europe, Chrysler in the U.S. and Alfa Romeo that has not yet turned a profit despite investment in the billions.

Marchionne has been widely credited with the rescue of both Chrysler and Fiat from near bankruptcy, and has focused on the fixing of FCA’s finances, notably eliminating all its debt.

For 14 years he was a dealmaker and a gift to the automaker’s investors including the Angelli family, growing the value of Fiat 11 times, helped through spinoffs of CNH Industrial the tractor maker and Ferrari. The Agnellis, who are from Italy, still hold controlling interests in Fiat, CNH and Ferrari.

However, his record over the years at fixing the different brands at FCA was a mixed bag, with product launches and investments repeatedly by delayed.

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