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Sergio Marchionne: Fiat’s CEO Fixed It Right the First Time

Now he's aiming for an American comeback.

by on Jan.22, 2009

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne

It was little more than the equivalent of a very small, cold slice of corporate pizza, but it was the hot automotive news yesterday. Fiat was working on a alliance that could result in 35% ownership of the struggling U.S. auto company by the Italian company.

Just four, almost five years ago, The Fiat Group, Spa, whose brands include Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia and Alfa Romeo was in probably worse shape than Chrysler. Their Fiat cars were really ugly, the technology was missing, factories were old and tired, management was ineffective and the company was bleeding, according to the Fiat Groups statements, over €1 billion (that’s when the exchange rate was $1.58) in cash.

The Agnelli family, owners of Fiat, brought in Sergio Marichonne, a youthful, 50-something, Italian born but Canadian raised executive of a financial company the family had in interest in as CEO. He had but one order: fix it. And fix it he did! In less than two years, thank you. But the question was – how?

The business success secret he acknowledged in a number of interviews in financial and automotive publications, when he was named business executive on the year in 2007, was based on one word: Focus. Focus on the problems and fix them.