Sergio Marchionne has stepped down from his position as CEO of Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) about a year earlier than expected due to significant complications from shoulder surgery. The automaker’s board of management appointed Mike Manley, who previously ran the Jeep and Ram divisions, as Marchionne’s replacement during an emergency meeting.
Outspoken and influential, 66-year old Marchionne had surgery on his right shoulder in early July. His recovery took an unexpected turn for the worse on July 21. FCA has not released additional details about Marchionne’s health, stating only he will be unable to return to work, but comments from other top executives suggest he’s in serious condition.
“I am profoundly saddened to learn of Sergio’s state of health. It is a situation that was unthinkable until a few hours ago, and one that leaves us all with a real sense of injustice,” wrote John Elkann, FCA’s Chairman and a descendant of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli, in a heartfelt statement. He praised Marchionne’s management skills, intelligence, and generosity. “He taught us to think differently and to have the courage to change, often in unconventional ways, always acting with a sense of responsibility for the companies and their people,” he added.
Support for Marchionne has poured in from all over the automotive industry. Posting on his personal Twitter account, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer called him a giant in the automotive industry and wished him a speedy recovery.
Our thoughts and prays are with Sergio Marchionne of @fcagroup & @Ferrari this evening, that he may recover from his worsened health. He is a giant in our industry and we @astonmartin hope he recovers quickly.
— Andy Palmer (@AndyatAston) July 21, 2018
Marchionne joined Fiat in 2003 as an independent director and became its CEO a year later. He was the main architect behind the merger with Chrysler in 2009. The troubled, bankrupt American brand would have likely disappeared without the deal. Marchionne later worked tirelessly to achieve cost-saving, profit-boosting synergies between the two automotive giants and ruffled a few feathers along the way. He notably urged motorists not to purchase the electric 500e because Fiat lost $14,000 on every example it sold.
His team recently performed a volte-face and embraced electrification. Marchionne’s last major public appearance was on June 1 when he presented FCA’s ambitious five-year plan. The roadmap calls for the launch of hybrid and electric models from key brands like Jeep, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo. It also outlines a technology offensive including semi-autonomous technology, a subscription service, an in-car purchasing service for commodities like movie tickets, tolls, and parking.
Marchionne also ran Ferrari, which FCA spun off as an independent company in early 2016. The storied brand appointed Elkann as its chairman and Louis Camilleri, one of its board members and the chairman of Philip Morris International, as its CEO.