Automotive executives aren't generally known for their sartorial style, but Marchionne's refusal to wear a suit set him apart. Marchionne owned a countless number of dark-colored sweaters, and thet became a trademark part of his look. Whether he was meeting with President Donald Trump or addressing the FCA workforce, Marchionne didn't feel the need to wear a suit and tie.
An Honest Man
Top automotive execs aren't generally quick to admit when they get something wrong, but Marchionne isn't a typical exec. When he thought FCA had screwed something up, he was more than willing to admit where the firm went wrong.
For example, when was the last time that you heard an automaker exec ask customers not to buy the firm's products? Marchionne did. In a 2014 speech with The Brookings Institute, Marchionne said: "If you are considering buying a 500e, I hope you don't buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000."
This wasn't a one-off occurrence, either. In April 2018, Marchionne made his feelings clear about the Maserati Levante's introduction during an interview with Motor Trend. "Very poor execution. I think we sucked at the launch of the Levante," he said.
As a final example, check out the video below to see how Marchionne handled the press after he, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, and Ford CEO Mark Fields met with President Donald Trump. Fields spent over a minute speaking to the media, and Barra spoke for about 20 seconds. Marchionne simply waved goodbye, offered one- and two-word answers, and then just wandered away while the media giggled at his noncommittal responses.
Marchionne never seemed afraid to make bold moves by axing unsuccessful products or adding unexpected ones.
The brief life and rapid death of the Dodge Dart is the ultimate example of this decisiveness. The compact sedan was supposed to be the second coming of the Neon for the brand as a small vehicle with segment-defining dynamics, but the four-door arrived just as the crossover market began heating up.
The story of the Ferrari SUV also exemplifies Marchionne's ability to change his mind quickly. Marchionne said in 2016 that "you have to shoot me first" before a Ferrari crossover arrived. By January 2018, he saw how the market was changing and confirmed that a Prancing Horse SUV was on the way.
Partnership with Waymo
It's still too soon to know how FCA's cooperation with Waymo could affect the automaker in the future, but the partnership might go down as one of the canniest moves during Marchionne's tenure as CEO.
The partnership has been such a huge success that Marchionne intended Chrysler to become a mobility brand for supplying people movers to autonomous firms across the country. It's too soon to know whether this plan could be a success, though.
Stabilizing The Ferrari Formula One Team
When Marchionne became Ferrari CEO in 2014, one of his many goals for the company was to put the Prancing Horse's F1 team back in a competitive situation after struggling that season. At the time, he said: "We’ve got to kick some ass and we've got to do it quickly."
Until Marchionne took the helm, Dodge went through a long period where it wasn't clear what the brand was for. For every interesting product like the Viper or sporty trims of the Neon, there were dreary machines like the Stratus and Avenger.
Since then, the company has simplified its lineup to the Challenger, Charger, Durango, and Journey. It also re-absorbed the SRT performance brand so that the performance versions of these models can carry the familiar Dodge marque.
The Alfa Romeo brand left the United States in 1995, and there were years of rumors about the marque's return to the country. Marchionne made it happen, though. The 4C coupe went on sale in America in late 2013. While it wasn't a huge success, the machine gave Alfa a new starting point.
Today, Alfa Romeo also offers the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV in America, and there's a whole lot more on the way. Two new crossovers will give buyers three sizes to choose from. Plus, the company will introduce a range-topping 8C performance coupe and a revived Gran Turismo Veloce as a sporty coupe with over 600 horsepower from a hybrid engine.
In 2015, Ferrari filed the necessary paperwork with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering under the stock symbol RACE. The company valued the shares to start at between $48 and $52. As of this writing, the stock trades at $136.49.
Of course, we have to give Marchionne credit for the move that should put him in the annals of auto history for years to come – taking over Chrysler during its bankruptcy.
Upon coming to power in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, Marchionne gave a speech to 4,000 employees at Chrysler's Auburn Hills, Michigan, headquarters. " "We intend to build on Chrysler's culture of innovation and Fiat's complementary technology and expertise to expand Chrysler's product portfolio both in North America and overseas," he said.
Marchionne only became CEO of Fiat in 2004, but he had an outsized role in shaping the auto industry in his 14 years at the helm. By stepping away from FCA and Ferrari, that era has come to an end. Let's take a moment to take a closer look at 10 effects of Marchionne's leadership on automotive history.