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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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Ford Charges Ahead With New Autonomous Vehicle Unit

New L.L.C. comes weeks after announcing new Detroit campus.

by on Jul.24, 2018

Less than a month after Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, and Bill Ford, announced plans for a Detroit campus, Hackett unveiled Ford Autonomous Vehicles L.L.C.

Less than a month after inviting the world to look at the dilapidated former train station that will be the cornerstone of the campus for the company’s autonomous and electric vehicle operations, Ford charged ahead wih the endeavor creating Ford Autonomous Vehicles L.L.C.

The new organization is charged with accelerating Ford’s AV business to capitalize on market opportunities, and the company’s not just taking a flyer on this business: it plans to roll $4 billion into the effort.

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“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain – from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” said Jim Hackett, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.” (more…)

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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FBI Arrests Apple Secrets Thief While Leaving for China

Former employee had been hired by XMotors.

by on Jul.11, 2018

CEO Tim Cook has been coy about Apple's self-driving car program, but it was the victim of proprietary information theft.

In what looked like something out of a James Patterson novel, FBI agents swooped in and arrested a former Apple employee who was boarding a plane for China after earlier swiping a passel of corporate secrets about Apple’s autonomous vehicle technology.

Xiaolang Zhang was a person of interest in an investigation about the theft of information from Apple by the FBI. He had already interviewed several times by Apple.

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He booked a last-minute flight to China on July 7, and then was arrested at the San Jose International Airport by FBI agents. Zhang has been charged with theft of trade secrets, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court in San Jose. (more…)

Mercedes, Bosch Team to Launch Self-Driving Car Service

Set to debut in late 2019 in Silicon Valley.

by on Jul.11, 2018

Initially, Daimler will use the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan for the pilot ride-sharing project.

Mercedes-Benz is teaming up with German mega-supplier Bosch to launch a new ride-sharing service in Silicon Valley next year that will rely on self-driving vehicles.

The project marks the latest entry into the fast-expanding field that, by some estimates, could eventually account for as much as a quarter or more of the miles Americans travel by automobile. Other planning to launch ride-sharing services using self-driving vehicles include General Motors, Google spin-off Waymo and Uber, the country’s largest ride-sharing service.

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While Mercedes’ parent Daimler AG is referring to the vehicles it will use as “automated shuttle(s),” customers will be able to ride in style. When the project initially gets underway during the second half of 2019, it will rely on modified versions of the luxurious S-Class Sedan. Eventually, the goal is to switch to a production version of the edgy Mercedes concept vehicle, the F 015.

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Bill Allowing National Testing for Autonomous Vehicle Testing Remains Stalled

Foreign competitors are gaining on U.S. in the arena.

by on Jul.09, 2018

Nissan is conducting on-road autonomous vehicle testing in Europe, including London, shown here.

As automakers scramble to find what U.S. states are best for testing autonomous vehicles, Congressional efforts to communize rules for all 50 states, once on the fast track, appears to have stalled and there is no timetable for a restart.

In today’s political climate, it would be easy to assume that partisanship is the reason the efforts have ground to a halt in the U.S. Senate, but the bill had strong bipartisan support coming out of committee.

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However, the Senate is tied up with other responsibilities, such as the looming Supreme Court justice approval process and other legislative agenda items, according to the Automotive News. (more…)

Tesla Semi Truck Could Go Full Mad Max on Other Drivers

Musk also reveals details on new pickup truck.

by on Jun.26, 2018

Are the engineers at Tesla looking for a post-apocalyptic setting for the company's new semi truck. Looking? Nope. They've got it.

If Tesla’s cars have a Ludicrous mode, then it would only make sense that the new semi-truck would have something equally ostentatious … like Mad Max mode.

While Ludicrous mode amps up the speed of the car, unfortunately Mad Max doesn’t give you any of the road-clearing gadgets enjoyed in the Mad Max movie. Instead, it appears to be a version of blind spot detection used in conjunction with Autopilot.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk discussed the option, which is still in test mode, during a series of tweets yesterday, and carried over to today when he started asking the Twitterverse what they’d like to see in a Tesla pickup — and what he plans to put in it. (more…)

Ford Plants the Blue Oval in Detroit

Bill Ford says move isn't a gesture, company expects a return on its investment.

by on Jun.19, 2018

Ford CEO Jim Hackett, left, and Bill Ford share a laugh after the announcing the company's plans for the Michigan Central Station in Detroit.

In a ceremony that was equal parts pep rally, political rally and outdoor concert, Ford Motor Co. officially told the world it would be putting its new most precious resource – its mobility campus – in the city of Detroit in a yet-to-be-renovated train station.

The automaker purchased the Michigan Central Station, once the hub of train travel in and out of Detroit, for an undisclosed sum. Bill Ford Jr., founder Henry Ford’s great grandson and current company chairman, also declined to say how much the company would spend renovating the structure.

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Ford also was quick to note that even through the company was in the midst of a cost-cutting effort that was initially set at $14 billion and has since gone up to $25 billion, the acquisition of the building and some of the surrounding ones and property parcels fits within the company’s belt-tightening measures. (more…)