Sergio Marchionne was always known for his no-nonsense approach when came to his business dealings and handling the media, as well as his refusal to wear the obligatory corporate suit and tie, preferring a more casual approach.
But anyone who may have underestimated him was to be proved wrong; this was a man who took decisions, grabbed them by the horns, and did things his own way.
Last weekend, it was confirmed that Sergio Marchionne was stepping down as chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) due to poor health. Ironically and very tragically, the boss of the world's eighth largest car maker slipped into a coma after complications arose during shoulder surgery.
Marchionne's sad passing was reported by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and UD Bloomberg on 25th July, 2018.
He proved himself to be a shrewd businessman, with a definite hands-on approach and was responsible for the revival of the Fiat Group in Europe. The Panda and the popular Fiat 500 was part of this resurgence, and Marchionne ploughed money into new production and plant equipment, predominantly in Italy.
Joining Fiat from the SGS Group of Geneva back in May 2003, he swiftly became chief executive of the Group one year later.
Marchionne will be remembered by many as orchestrating the merger with the struggling Chrysler Group, which had come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009 when Fiat, the United Autoworkers Union and the Canadian Government were the main investors.
The initial Fiat stake was 20 percent, rising to 58 percent in 2012. Then, in 2014, it bought the rest of the shares from UAW in order to create a solely-owned subsidiary; later on, in the same year, both companies joined together and the FCA was born.
It was certainly a great achievement - Marchionne had managed to acquire the smallest of America's "Big Three" car manufacturers - including Jeep - for 4.9 billion dollars plus a 5.5-billion-dollar pension liability.
As we previously touched upon, Marchionne was not one to follow the trend, particularly with his unique style and approach to business. He had a cutting brand of wit and would address people wearing in his favourite attire with a cigarette in his hand (before he gave up), dealing with all questions that were fired at him by investors and journalists in his famously authoritative way.
True to form, Marchionne was quoted as saying "If you haven't got anything to say, don't have a press conference not to say it.".
He had a five-year company strategy plan, although not all of his plans were as successful as he had hoped. He sadly did not manage to put right Fiat's weakness in the larger car sector, and the luxury marques of Alfa Romeo and Maserati have still not achieved their potential despite Marchionne's attempts to put this right.
His tough approach did result in some casualties, with managers coming and going at quite a rate - the ones that remained were known to work very hard indeed to help make Marchionne's plans work as he had intended. However, although this was seen by many as bordering on ruthless, it made a change from the standard staid car executive school of employ, where few had opinions and were taken on because of their business administration credentials.
Michael Manley, head of the Jeep brand, replaced Marchionne at the helm of the 10-brand motor maker when his illness was confirmed on the weekend before his passing. Manley is a British trained engineer with a background in sales, coming to Chrysler by way of the unsuccessful 1998 merger of equals (Daimler Chrysler). He continued his journey in various executive roles before being appointed as head of Jeep in 2009. He was instrumental in the reversal of marque's fortunes, concentrating on brand values, reinventing the Wrangler as an iconic model and introducing three new vehicles to the range.
Manley not only survived under Marchionne's leadership, he flourished; some could say that similarities can be found when looking at his reflective business approach and financial discipline.
But will Manley continue to push forward with Marchionne's aplomb and can the deceased CEO ever be truly replaced?
We don't think that he can, but we do think that if it was Marchionne's wish that Manley was to take the FCA throne, Manley is the right man for the job and will have a jolly good go. Like most of us, we wish Manley and Fiat Chrysler Automotive the very best of luck.
One thing that Sergio Marchionne proved to us all is that it is not just luck that is needed to make positive changes within an organisation. It is clear vision, dedication to the cause, staunch leadership and an unwavering belief in oneself.
All Vehicle Contracts Ltd Published: Jul 26 2018