Fiat Chrysler replaces Sergio Marchionne at the helm amid health struggles, ending impressive near 10-year run

Key Points
  • Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has been replaced, just days before the company reports earnings.
  • Marchionne oversaw nearly a decade of impressive growth for the company, after it emerged from a government bailout. 
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sergio Marchionne, the maverick auto executive who created and oversaw nearly a decade of post-bailout growth at Fiat Chrysler, has been replaced as CEO amid ongoing health struggles.

The Fiat Chrysler board of directors made the move following Marchionne’s shoulder surgery three weeks ago, but did not give specifics about his condition. The Italian-born Marchionne will also exit his dual CEO role at Ferrari, the race car manufacturer spun off from Fiat more than 2 years ago.

In a statement, the company said that “while Mr. Marchionne was recovering from surgery,” his health has “worsened significantly in recent hours.” The company added that Marchionne will not be returning to work. He is being replaced by Mike Manley, who has run the Jeep brand for several years.

The move came just days before Fiat Chrysler is scheduled to report second quarter earnings. While the transition will generate plenty of questions from analysts and reporters, it is not expected to impact the automaker’s report.

Marchionne’s departure from the C-suite marks the end of one of the most successful runs ever by an auto industry CEO. Almost a decade ago, Marchionne orchestrated Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler out of a bankruptcy overseen by the U.S. government. At the time, several members of the Obama administration were lobbying to let Chrysler collapse and go out of business, but Marchionne convinced them to let Fiat buy the beaten down automaker, thereby saving thousands of jobs.

After acquiring Chrysler, Marchionne immediately set out to rebuild the auto company by focusing on an aggressive expansion of the Jeep and Ram brands, while spending less on the Dodge and Chrysler brands. That decision, which coincided with U.S. auto buyers seeking more SUV’s and pickup trucks, helped Fiat Chrysler more than double its U.S. sales since 2009. Marchionne also oversaw the wildly successful IPO of Fiat Chrysler’s ultra-luxury brand Ferrari.

Despite concerns by Ferrari fans that Marchionne would damage the brand as he expanded sales, the opposite has happened. That’s lead to spectacular run in shares of Ferrari: Since its IPO in October of 2015, the stock has almost tripled in value. In the last year, shares of RACE are up 37 percent.