Sergio Marchionne wants to do something no recent executive has been able to accomplish: help Chrysler to turn a profit. Following Fiat's successful buyout of Chrysler, Marchionne officially took over as CEO of Chrysler yesterday.
Marchionne's career with Fiat began after an appointment to the Italian automaker's supervisory board in 2003. He became their CEO just one year later, and led the company back to profitability. This is no small feat: the four years leading up to Marchionne's reign, Fiat had taken on over €8 billion in losses.
As the new boss at Chrysler, Marchionne met with employees at Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters. The dual Canadian/Italian citizen told the rank-and-file that he plans to hole up in his new office at the headquarters, instead of jetting back to Fiat's basecamp in Turin, Italy.
Marchionne bluntly told employees that this opportunity is Chrysler's last chance. The company will reorganize into four divisions, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and parts producer Mopar, with each being responsible for their own return to profitability. This is the same strategy Marchionne ushered into Fiat.
During a speech to about 4,000 Chrysler employees, Marchionne let it be known that a new culture was taking over. Many changes were announced, including a new team of 23 advisers, several of which come from Fiat. Some executives were bounced out of the new firm, including Chrysler CFO Ron Kolka, while others were promoted. Taking over for Kolka will be Fiat CFO Richard Palmer.
The new CEO also seems to be very aware of the problems that arose during the Daimler/Chrysler merger, where the German automaker was reluctant to allow the rebranding of their vehicles as Chrysler models. Marchionne told employees, "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."
Marchionne told employees that the power will be turned back on at Chrysler's manufacturing facilities, sending workers back to the assembly lines for the first time in six weeks. The new management team wants these plants to operate more efficiently while improving overall vehicle and engine quality.