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FCA Reports Lower Than Expected Earnings as it Mourns Marchionne

Former chief memorialized with a moment of silence on earnings call.

by on Jul.25, 2018

Mike Manley, new CEO of FCA, led a moment of silence today before leading the reporting of the company's second quarter earnings.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported Q2 earnings that were lower than expected, but that was surpassed by news that former CEO Sergio Marchionne died due to complications from surgery in Switzerland.

The company’s executives, including the newly appointed replacement for Marchionne, Mike Manley, soldiered on through the earnings call, starting with a moment of silence to honor the man many believe saved Chrysler from extinction.

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Then they moved on, as they believed Marchionne would have insisted, to describe how slow sales in China put a drag on the company’s earnings results despite impressive sales in North America during the first half of the year. (more…)

Former FCA CEO Marchionne Dead of Stroke at 66

A “force of nature,” the Italian-born exec rescued two car companies.

by on Jul.25, 2018

Sergio Marchionne was a dynamic game-changer that many could only watch as he raced by.

Sergio Marchionne, a man more than once called “a force of nature,” has died from a stroke at the age of 66, an unexpected complication following what had been expected to be “routine” shoulder surgery last week.

In an era when many businesspeople crave anonymity, Marchionne’s public appearances often turned into events, rather than mere news conferences. And perhaps for good reason considering there are few executives who could lay claim to having saved two separate automakers, Fiat and Chrysler, before bringing them together to form a global powerhouse.

Word that something had gone wrong came around noon Eastern time on Saturday when FCA issued a brief statement revealing that the Italian-born and Canadian-educated Marchionne experienced “unexpected complications,” and that his conditions had “worsened significantly in recent hours.” Subsequent news reports from Europe indicated the executive had suffered a stroke, fallen into a coma and was placed on a ventilator at a Swiss hospital. FCA issued another terse statement indicating his passing early this afternoon in Europe.

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Manly Manley Facing Tough Challenges at FCA

Great track record at Jeep, Ram, but lots more to do, observers caution.

by on Jul.23, 2018

New Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley is not sliding into a cushy job, rather it is a position that faces several difficult challenges in the near and long term.

The head of Fiat Chrysler’s European, Mideast and African business operations reportedly has stepped down, the apparent departure of Alfredo Altavilla kicking into high gear what could become a period of significant turmoil in the automaker’s senior ranks touched off by the unexpected departure of long-time CEO Sergio Marchionne over the weekend.

The 66-year-old Marchionne, who brought Fiat in as a white knight to save Chrysler after its 2010 bankruptcy, was replaced over the weekend by Michael Manley after suffering a grave decline in health following seemingly routine shoulder surgery last week.

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The 54-year-old Manley was considered the front-runner to replace Marchionne when he retired nearly a year from now, but the unexpected shake-up will put plenty of pressure on the new CEO to hold things together while also moving ahead with the new FCA five-year plan Marchionne unveiled barely two months ago. Altavilla was seen as one of the other senior execs positioned to succeed Marchionne and it remains to be seen if his departure could be followed by others. (more…)

Detroit Auto Show Moving to June in 2020, Adding Major New Features

Sponsors aim to revive what's been North America’s leading car show.

by on Jul.23, 2018

Toyota Pres. Akio Toyota is shown here revealing the 2019 Camry during this year's NAIAS.

The North American International Auto Show will move from January to June in 2020, a new timeslot that organizers are betting will help revive the flagging momentum of what had long been one of the industry’s most important annual events.

The Detroit Auto Dealers Association had signaled its intention of abandoning its traditional, mid-winter schedule, though a switch to October was also under study. But that would have conflicted with other shows in Europe and Asia, the dealer group’s Executive Director Rod Alberts told TheDetroitBureau.com in an exclusive interview.

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In a background briefing ahead of today’s official announcement, Alberts said one of the advantages of a summer event is the ability to add new functions that expand beyond the confines of Detroit’s sprawling Cobo Hall convention center. “We realized we have to change the show (and) showcase Detroit, too,” said Alberts, who has been running the DADA for the past 28 years.

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Marchionne Out, Manley In as Fiat Chrysler CEO

Questions about health issues blamed for Marchionne’s early departure.

by on Jul.21, 2018

Larger than life: Marchionne outlined a broad 5-year-plan during a day-long June session in Milan.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced on Saturday that Jeep and Ram brand boss Michael Manley will replace CEO Sergio Marchionne, who due to complications from recent surgery is gravely ill and will not return to work.

Though the 66-year-old Marchionne was known to have undergone surgery this past week for what was reported to be a shoulder problem. According to FCA’s statement, the Italian-born and Canadian-educated Marchionne experienced “unexpected complications,” while his conditions had “worsened significantly in recent hours.”

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Word of Marchionne’s departure quickly echoed through the automotive grapevine. Few industry executives have had a higher profile presence in recent decades, and even fewer could be said to have done more to shape a company in his own image as did Marchionne, who rescued the then-bankrupt Chrysler by securing a U.S. government bailout and then merging it with Italy’s Fiat S.p.A.

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First (Short) Drive: 2019 Maserati Levante GTS

Racing between the raindrops.

by on Jul.13, 2018

The new GTS is the second most powerful model in Maserati's GTS line-up.

What has been an otherwise hot and dry summer turned into a storm of almost biblical proportions as I headed up to the M1 Concourse near Pontiac, Michigan for a chance to check out the latest products from Maserati and sibling Italian brand Alfa Romeo. But almost as if on cue, the rain clouds briefly parted when I was handed the keys to the new Maserati Levante GTS for some lap time on the tight and twisty circuit.

There were plenty of skeptics when Maserati announced plans to get into the SUV game – as there were when Porsche revealed similar plans a decade earlier. But the Levante won over most of those naysayers when it made its debut two years ago, initially offering two versions powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. The GTS turns things up a notch.

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The latest version of Maserati’s first-ever sport-utility vehicle is, certainly on paper, an impressive piece of machinery, thrumming out 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque from its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 – just a slight bit less than the Levante Trofeo first unveiled at the New York Auto Show last spring. That’s enough to launch the GTS from 0 to 60 in just 4 seconds – and to take a broadside at the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, destined to be its most direct competitor.

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Alfa Romeo, Maserati Betting on Batteries to Build Global Demand

“Going after Tesla.”

by on Jun.28, 2018

The original concept version of the Maserati Alfieri. There will soon be all-electric versions of both the production coupe and convertible.

Things are looking blue at Maserati. Make that Maserati Blue, the name of the new brand-within-a-brand the Italian automaker plans to launch during the next several years that will help it target Tesla.

Like all global automotive manufacturers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be pushing into electrification over the coming decade, and that includes FCA’s two high-line marques, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. But rather than focus on “compliance cars” meant to barely meet emissions and mileage regulations, the Italian brands are betting they can focus on the performance capabilities electric drivelines offer and actually command a price premium.

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Alfa, for example, is working up a 700-horsepower plug-in hybrid supercar. But it’s the more upscale Maserati that will make the broadest bet on electrification. “Everything gets electrified,” Maserati chief Tim Kuniskis told TheDetroitBureau.com during an exclusive interview. That includes four all-electric models that will be grouped together as the new Maserati Blue brand.

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What’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Without Fiat and Chrysler?

Two namesake brands will survive – barely, for now.

by on Jun.04, 2018

The Chrysler Pacifica may soon go it solo as the brand continues to shrink.

It’s been nearly a decade since struggling European automaker Fiat combined with the post-Chapter 11 Chrysler, and if the 5-year plan unveiled during a day-long meeting in Milan last week comes close to being accurate, the carmaker could be in for a “brighter future” than ever, according to John Elkann, the chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and the heir to the Italian side of the company’s founders.

There’s just one problem: neither the Fiat nor Chrysler brands seem poised to share in the spoils. The Fiat Capital Day briefing focused all but exclusively on just four brands – Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo and Maserati – expected to dominate FCA’s future. For now, Fiat and Chrysler will survive, but in greatly diminished form, and observers question whether they’ll be around for the long-term.

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“There was enough doubt…about their future because they barely showed up in the presentations,” said Joe Phillippi, chief analyst with AutoTrends Consulting, after attending the day-long session at Alfa’ proving grounds near Milan. Fca’s management team “took pains to say (Fiat and Chrysler will have a future, at least in the near-term. But it will be up to the next management team to determine whether they will remain in the portfolio for the long-term.”

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Paris Motor Show Exodus Accelerates

Key FCA brands follow BMW, Ford, Nissan and VW out the door.

by on Jun.04, 2018

This scene is not going to play out this fall at the Paris Motor Show.

It’s looking likely to be rather lonely at the Paris Motor Show this year with a rapidly growing list of major manufacturers announcing they will be no-shows next autumn at an event that has traditionally been a must for the industry.

Auto shows, in general, are coming under scrutiny as manufacturers begin weighing their costs and benefits, and start comparing them to marketing alternatives such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and even the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Jeep will be holdouts at the 2018 Mondial de l’Automobile, which was set to begin on Oct. 2 with two days of press debuts, and then remain open to the public through Oct. 14. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will still show off its Maserati brand, as well as Ferrari. (more…)

FCA Maps Out a Self-Driving Strategy

Automaker teams up with Waymo, BMW and Aptiv, but carves out its own path.

by on Jun.01, 2018

A Waymo-modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

While there are a growing number of autonomous vehicle prototypes on the road these days, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made headlines when they announced, earlier this week, plans to direct as many as 62,000 Pacifica Hybrid minivans into the self-driving ride-sharing service the Google spin-off will launch later this year.

By some estimates, 20% or more of the miles Americans clock on the road will be in driverless vehicles operated by ride-sharing services like Waymo, Uber and Lyft by the end of the coming decade. Millions of motorists may opt to give up their personal vehicles and switch to those services. Millions more are expected to own their own autonomous vehicles.

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Until recently considered a laggard in the self-driving field, FCA has jumped in big, relying on partnerships with not only Waymo, but BMW and mega-supplier Aptiv. And that approach will not only help it to make up for lost time but give FCA several alternative paths to follow.

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