Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its U.S. sales chief, Reid Bigland, is leaving the company to pursue other interests.
Bigland, who has been with Fiat Chrysler for 22 years, sued the company last year, claiming it withheld 90 percent of his 2018 compensation because he cooperated with a regulatory probe into its sales practices.
Over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016, Fiat Chrysler's U.S. unit used a series of fraudulent moves to falsely report new vehicle sales and tout a "streak" of uninterrupted monthly year-over-year sales growth, when it had actually ended in September 2013.
In July 2016, the company revised more than five years of monthly U.S. vehicle sales figures to reflect a new reporting method, amid an investigation by federal authorities including the U.S. Justice Department.
Bigland, 54, will leave the company on April 3, Fiat Chrysler said on Wednesday.
Bigland was widely viewed as a rising star within Fiat Chrysler after he was appointed to head of U.S. sales in 2011.
He became one of the late CEO Sergio Marchionne’s most trusted deputies by overseeing a streak of rising sales in the U.S. that earned him added responsibilities. At various points during his tenure, he was chief of the Ram pickup division and the premium Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.
But his record was blemished by allegations U.S. dealers made in a 2016 lawsuit that claimed Fiat Chrysler had offered retailers money to falsify sales. While the carmaker settled that suit in April 2019, the allegations spurred investigations by the SEC and Justice Department.
After it restated sales results in 2016, FCA and said its counting methodology had been in place for decades. The SEC fined Fiat Chrysler $40 million for making misleading statements to investors. The carmaker didn’t admit wrongdoing.
Despite the distractions that were swirling around Bigland, dealers said he carried on as if nothing unusual was happening. He held a call with top retailers this week to let them know he was leaving, said David Kelleher, a Philadelphia-area Fiat Chrysler dealer who sits on the automaker’s dealer council.
Fiat Chrysler named several of Bigland’s deputies to replace him in his various roles. Jeff Kommor vice president of U.S. retail, fleet and small-business sales, will lead U.S. sales, while David Buckingham, chief operating officer of Canada operations, gets bumped up to CEO. Mike Koval, the director of Ram marketing, will be head of the pickup brand on an interim basis.
Bloomberg contributed to this report