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Five Crucial Moments in FCA Exec Sergio Marchionne’s Illustrious Career

These are some of the Italian-Canadian Fiat Chrysler executive's biggest moves during his 14-year tenure at Fiat.

Sergio Marchionne may be a household name in today’s business sector, but in a world plagued with pompous executives and suit-wearing company dictators, Marchionne stood out for his cool-headed approach to complex problems, and of course, his dazzling array of sweaters. He was 66 years old at the time of his death early Wednesday morning and left behind a legacy of hard and strategic work.

Marchionne was born in Italy but moved to Canada at the age of 13, where he eventually studied philosophy, commerce, and law in Toronto and Windsor before joining the working world with full force in 1983 and ultimately moving abroad as a result. Despite focusing on tax laws and strategies during the initial part of his career, Marchionne quickly built a reputation for being financially savvy and having a knack for improving business processes. As a result, he landed his first executive position in 1989, when he became the executive vice president of Glenex Industries. 

After sharpening his leadership skills at the helm of several companies around the world, Marchionne was elected as a member of the board of Italian automaker Fiat in 2003, and then appointed CEO a year later in 2004. These are Marchionne’s milestone moments until his departure from FCA last week due to health complications that ultimately led to his death on July 25.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone,” said John Elkann, Chairman of Exor, Ferrari, and FCA President. “I believe that the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion.”

2004: Fiat CEO

From L to R: John Elkann, Luca di Montezemolo, Sergio Marchionne., GETTY

Marchionne was named CEO of Fiat in 2004 as the Italian automaker struggled to remain alive. Former CEO Giuseppe Morchio suddenly resigned after being skipped for the position of Fiat chairman following the death of Umberto Agnelli, who appointed John Elkann instead. Elkann is the grandson of Gianni Agnelli, one of the most powerful and notorious members of the Agnelli family, who founded Fiat and have played important political and industrial roles in Italy.

2006: Fiat Is Profitable Again

Marchionne poses with the new Fiat Punto in Turin, Italy., GETTY

Marchionne’s experience with contract negotiations and global enterprises helped him strike a partnership with Tata Motors, which was then called Tata-Fiat. The new deal increased vehicle sales and production in Italy and India and was a key player in bringing Fiat back to solvency. The automaker went from reporting $12 billion in losses in 2004 to posting gains for six straight quarters by 2007.

2009: Chrysler Files for Bankruptcy 

One of the 30 manufacturer plants Chrysler was forced to close in 2009., GETTY

Chrysler, one of America’s “Big Three,” filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 30, 2009. After a long and arduous process of solidifying the company’s assets, coming to terms with debt collectors, and receiving over $10 billion in financial assistance from the Obama administration, Chrysler put itself into a position where it could be acquired by Fiat in order to secure a prosperous future.

2011: Marchionne Becomes Chrysler CEO

Marchionne celebrates the repayment of Chrysler’s debt., GETTY

On May 24, 2011, Chrysler repaid its debt to the American and Canadian federal governments. Marchionne celebrated this feat at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan, where a banner that read “PAID” was hung for all employees and media to see. Fiat’s 20 percent stake in the Chrysler Group grew to 53 percent, and as a result, Marchionne became Chrysler CEO.

2014: Fiat and Chrysler Become FCA

Marchionne at the helm of FCA., GETTY

Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram, Alfa Romeo, and Dodge, unite under the FCA name under Marchionne’s rule, who became the CEO of the seventh largest automaker in the world. Marchionne also became CEO of Ferrari after it spun into a publicly traded company.