MILAN -- Sergio Marchionne's last hurrah as CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles entails betting the carmaker's future on Jeeps and Maserati luxury cars while downsizing its namesake brands, according to people familiar with the matter.
Under the plan, the company is considering ending sales of Fiat cars in North America and China in the coming years, while mostly confining Chrysler to the U.S., said the people, who asked not to be identified before Marchionne unveils the strategy on Friday at the Balocco test track outside Turin. FCA declined to comment ahead of the presentation.
The closely watched briefing will be something of a victory lap for the 65-year-old CEO, who is set to retire next year, taking place at the site where he laid out his survival strategy for Fiat in 2004. The presentation "will be the last major event for Sergio Marchionne as CEO and a potential catalyst for a rerating" of the stock, Giulio Pescatore, an analyst with HSBC in London, said in a note to clients.
Marchionne's successor will be appointed by FCA's general meeting in April 2019.
Expansion will be underpinned by rolling out brawny Jeep and Ram vehicles globally. The carmaker is also considering combining Alfa Romeo and Maserati into a single division in FCA's financial reports, the people said. Combining the upscale Italian brands would be seen by investors as a first step to an eventual spinoff.
The presentation represents an important signal for the post-Marchionne era and comes on the executive's 14th anniversary at the helm after leading the carmaker back from the brink of bankruptcy and boosting the group's value more than 10 times. After the CEO steps down in 2019, Fiat's controlling shareholders are expected to evaluate long-term strategic options, including a potential merger with a larger rival