TURIN -- Fiat Chrysler Automobiles appointed Mike Manley, head of its Jeep division, as its new CEO to replace Sergio Marchionne, who was forced to relinquish the post after 14 years because of complications from shoulder surgery.
FCA said in a news release that Marchionne had been recovering from surgery but his condition has worsened significantly. "As a consequence, Mr. Marchionne will be unable to return to work," the company said.
To provide operational continuity, the board has granted Manley with immediate effect all the powers of CEO. He will also assume responsibility for the NAFTA region, FCA said.
Manley, 54, a native of England, is the man behind the extraordinary success of the Jeep brand’s global expansion. He joined Chrysler in the U.K. in 2000 when the carmaker was part of Daimler, and was named head of Jeep at the time of Fiat’s acquisition in 2009, leading the transformation of the iconic American brand into a cash machine. Analysts estimate that Jeep alone could be worth the entire $30 billion market value of Fiat Chrysler.
Manley shares with Marchionne a very direct style and and a penchant for casual clothing. He has sidestepped the question of whether he was ready to take the top post, always saying he was fully concentrating on his Jeep job.
Marchionne, 66, had surgery on his right shoulder and needed a short period of convalescence, an FCA spokesman told Italian business website Lettera 43 on July 5. He has not been seen in public since June 26, when he delivered a Jeep Wrangler to the Carabinieri police in Rome.
Manley prevailed over two other FCA veterans: CFO Richard Palmer and Alfredo Altavilla, the COO of FCA's Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Palmer is well known to Wall Street and helped combine the company’s operations after the merger with Chrysler. Altavilla is a close aide to Marchionne and a Fiat veteran who’s overseen operations across the globe.
Manley rose through the ranks to head Jeep. He has been part of the Group Executive Council, FCA's governing body, since 2011. Between 1986 and 2000, Manley worked for various car dealerships in England and Scotland. He joined DaimlerChrysler in 2000 as director of network development at DaimlerChrysler UK. He held different international positions at DaimlerChrysler and then Chrysler before being appointed president and CEO of Jeep at post-bankruptcy Chrysler Group in June 2009.
Under his watch, Jeep's global sales have quadrupled, and the brand is within reach of selling 1 million vehicles in the U.S. for the first time this year.
Manley also oversaw the expansion of Jeep into China as COO of FCA’s Asia-Pacifica region, which has become a third profit center for the automaker behind North America and Europe. He formed a close relationship with Guangzhou Automobile Group executives to significantly grow a joint venture with the Chinese automaker for localized manufacturing and a sales and distribution network in the country.
In October 2015, Manley was also was given responsibility for the Ram brand.
'Absolute best choice'
"Mike is the absolute best choice from a strong field," Jim Press, the former co-president of Chrysler Group, said in an e-mailed statement to Automotive News. “Sergio deserves all the credit as the master architect behind FCA’s recovery and Mike was instrumental in building today’s prosperity. The company is in great hands with Mike Manley at the wheel and it’s wonderful news for the dealer body.”
Press now is president of RML Automotive in Dallas and also is the former president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
Ferrari, were Marchionne had been both chairman and CEO, named FCA Chairman and Agnelli family scion John Elkann as new chairman, while board member Louis Camilleri becomes chief executive, the luxury carmaker said in a separate statement.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report