After helping lead the smallest of Detroit’s automakers out of bankruptcy while also turning around its Italian partner Fiat, CEO Sergio Marchionne says he’s close to “done” and ready to find something a little less challenging to do.
Marchionne’s key goal will be completed this coming weekend with the formal merger of the two companies into the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, which will have its headquarters in London while being incorporated in the Netherlands.
That leaves Marchionne the challenge of putting in place the company’s new business plan which will take it through to 2018 when he apparently plans to retire, he said during an interview with the Bloomberg news service.
“I am not going to do any more turnarounds,” he said, adding that, “I’m done. Let some of the young punks do it.”
That’s not to say the 62-year-old, Canadian-educated executive plans to coast during the next four years. During a media roundtable discussion at the Paris Motor Show last week, Marchionne made it clear the industry – Fiat Chrysler in particular – face tough times ahead.
He noted that “I’ve never been a firm believer in the recovery of Europe,” which, by the most optimistic of forecasts is just coming out of its worst recession in decades.
(For more from Marchionne’s Paris press conference, Click Here.)
Fiat, in particular, has been struggling, its home Italian market one of the countries hardest hit. The maker closed one plant and Marchionne’s negotiating team was able to squeeze significant concessions out of workers at other facilities. Meanwhile, in order to keep those remaining plants opened, he noted, Fiat has largely shifted production capacity to either handle Jeep and other Chrysler products, or will have the plants target export markets.
Another key challenge facing FCA is the global regulatory push for lower CO2 emissions and higher mileage. According to industry analysts, that will force a major shift to electrification – something that cannot be financial justified, Marchionne fretted. He has revealed that Fiat is already posting significant financial losses on its new 500e battery-electric vehicle.
(Live from Paris…Click Here for complete coverage of this year’s auto show.)
Meanwhile, the maker doesn’t have quite the volume it needs to stand up to competitors such as General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota or Ford, something Marchionne hopes to address by pushing for rapid growth in emerging markets such as China and Latin America during the current five-year plan.
This weekend’s planned completion of the Fiat Chrysler merger is one of the CEO’s biggest victories, at least after guiding Chrysler through its emergence from Chapter 11 in 2009. But he has also helped Fiat address a series of challenges since taking control of that company in 2004.
(New clean air rules could be “fatal” to auto industry, warns VW CEO Winterkorn. Click Here for more.)
Sticking around until 2018 would make him one of the longest-serving chief executives of a major automaker ever.
Investors will have to wait until Monday to voice their opinion on Marchionne’s not-so-imminent retirement. The new FCA common shares won’t begin trading on both the Italian and New York stock exchanges until next Monday.