FCA CEO Mike Manley steps on accelerator as global auto market stalls

X Scalper

The “check engine” light lit up almost as soon as Mike Manley took over as chief executive of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Days before the late Sergio Marchionne died unexpectedly a year ago, Manley was tasked with leading the Italian-American company into an automotive era increasingly defined by progress in electrification and self-driving technology.

Right after being named CEO, he was forced to cut financial targets due to disappointing sales in China. The company rattled investors again six months later by lowering 2019 earnings guidance. Then came a failed attempt to merge with Renault SA orchestrated by Chairman John Elkann, scion of Fiat’s founding Agnelli family.

Those setbacks — paired with peaking global car demand — have weighed heavily on Fiat Chrysler shares, which are down nearly a third over the past 12 months, to $13.70. Its market capitalization has shrunk to $22 billion, less than half the value of General Motors. The two automakers will release their quarterly results this week.

Known as a workaholic with an icy, no nonsense demeanor, he’s been busy putting his own stamp on the company, according to interviews with executives who worked closely with him. He’s dispatched with Marchionne’s pressure-cooker style of having top lieutenants wear multiple hats and manage vastly different parts of the business, instead streamlining divisions and assembling a brain trust of longtime veterans and outsiders from Amazon, Nike and Nissan Motor to help run them.

Mark Stewart, whom Manley hired from Amazon, now runs North America, a job Marchionne himself had done, while CFO Richard Palmer is in charge of business development, and not the systems and castings division he once ran under Marchionne. Manley also moved the CEO’s office back up to the 15th floor at Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters, after Marchionne spent nearly a decade on No. 4, ostensibly to be closer to his foot soldiers.

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