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Sergio Marchionne, who saved Chrysler and Fiat, dies at 66

Wednesday - 25/07/2018 08:24
Marchionne is a dual Italian-Canadian citizen with an MBA from the University of Windsor and a career spent mostly in Europe. 
(Photo: PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo: PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP/Getty Images)

Sergio Marchionne, an accountant turned auto executive who is credited with saving both Fiat and Chrysler, has died. He was 66.

The holding company of the Agnelli family, which founded Fiat, confirmed the death Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is  gone," John Elkann, chairman of FCA, said in a statement.

"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." 

A tireless worker known for candor, sweaters and chain smoking, Marchionne did not fit the mold of a carmaker's CEO. Named Fiat's chief executive in 2004, he had worked primarily in finance and nonautomotive industries. But he rescued Chrysler from the brink of liquidation in 2009 with help from the U.S. and Canadian governments, and implemented an improbable turnaround plan that transformed the automaker into a global force.

Marchionne, who was scheduled to retire in April 2019, was hospitalized in late June for shoulder surgery and what was expected to be a short stay. The Italian newspaper La Stampa said he had confirmed appointments in early July. His last public appearance was June 26 in Rome for a Jeep presentation to the Italian Carabinieri, a military police force in which his father was once an officer. Observers said he looked haggard that day.

More: Sergio Marchionne dead: 5 ways he saved Chrysler

More: Sergio Marchionne’s intellect and daring reshaped the auto industry

Following his surgery, he took a sudden turn for the worse July 21. That prompted the boards of FCA, Ferrari and tractor maker CNH Industrial — affiliated companies all led by Marchionne — to replace him and announce he would be unable to return to work.

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