As if he doesn’t have enough to keep himself busy, Sergio Marchionne is adding another title to his CV. With the unexpected retirement of Amedeo Felisa, Marchionne will now become chief executive officer at Ferrari.
The Canadian-raised executive also serves as chairman of the sports car company – as well as CEP of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which spun Ferrari off this past year. Marchionne also runs the North American region for FCA and serves as chairman of CNH Industrial, the heavy duty unit that was created by the merger of Fiat Industry and Case New Holland.
The latest role comes just after Ferrari posted its best earnings ever. But the supercar maker is also has to deal with a variety of challenges, from its aggressive growth target to its ongoing struggles on the Formula One circuit it long dominated.
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Felisa was already a 24-year Fiat veteran when he joined Ferrari in 1990, two years after the death of the company’s legendary founder, Enzo Ferrari. He became chief of the road car unit a decade later, general manager in 2006, and then CEO in 2008, replacing Jean Todt who became president of the FIA.
Marchionne, meanwhile, became chairman of Ferrari in 2014 after a bitter falling out with Luca di Montezemolo over key issues including Ferrari’s production plans and its sudden slump in Formula One. But with Marchionne’s time split between so many different jobs, Felisa effectively expanded his role while retaining the chief executive title.
Felisa signed on when Marchionne reversed course and, early last year, announced that Ferrari would be spun off. He also sided with Marchionne on dropping the production cap Montezemolo has put in place, around 7,000 vehicles annually. In the IPO prospectus it released last year, Ferrari said it was looking to boost annual sales to around 9,500, and Marchionne has hinted that could go even higher.
While there had been concern Ferrari might wind up diluting its brand, that hasn’t happened yet, and the January-March quarter brought the brand’s best 90-day results ever. Its net profit surging 19%, to 78 million euros, or $89.5 million.
Revenues for the quarter were up 8.8%, while Ferrari delivers 1,882 vehicles, a 15% jump.
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For his part, Marchionne had nothing but praise for the soon-to-retire Ferrari CEO. “I have known Amedeo for more than a decade and I have had the opportunity to work with him closely for the last two years,” the FCA CEO and Ferrari chairman said in a statement. “He is beyond any doubt one of the best automotive engineers in the world.”
There are signs that investors aren’t pleased with the news, however. Ferrari shares – traded in the U.S. under the ticker symbol RACE – were down more than 2% at midday on Monday, though the stock had bounced back from a morning low of $43.55. It is down from a peak of $60.97 since the stock was first listed late last year, though shares have rebounded from a low of $31.66 in mid-February.
The question likely to nag at investors in the coming weeks will be whether Marchionne plans to stay on as Ferrari CEO and Chairman? And, if so, will he be able to give Ferrari the level of attention it needs? The company is just struggling to get its Formula One team in order, among other things, and doesn’t need a major distraction.
The good news for those seeking at least some sense of stability is that Felisa will remain on the Ferrari board as a technical adviser.
Whether a full-time CEO will step into his role anytime soon remains to be seen. The notoriously micromanaging Marchionne has seldom shown a reluctance to add more duties to his daily schedule, however.
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