Supply Chain Matters was very saddened to read of the untimely and sudden passing of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne.
As National Public Radio, many business and industry tributes have noted, Marchionne was truly a visionary at a time when the auto industry was sorely in need of one.
From our lens, Mr. Marchionne was and will be forever recorded as a legendary CEO with vision, who made a truly landmark presence for the automotive industry. His leadership style was unique and highly effective, demonstrating qualities that will long be remembered in business leadership case studies.
We extend sincere condolences to Mr. Marchionne’s family and friends as well as to those within Fiat Chrysler Automobiles global organization and workforce.
We began highlighting Mr. Marchionne’s industry presence starting in 2009 in the context of the U.S. automotive sector’s, and specifically Chrysler’s  struggles through the effects of the severe financial recession impacting the U.S. economy and the industry. In that May 2009 commentary, we noted Fiat’s bold white knight approach to rescue U.S. automaker Chrysler, and what Fiat gained in scalability and other factors. We concluded our commentary with the statement: “But whether Fiat is, or is not totally successful, we have the opportunity to observe a visionary company that truly understands the overall importance of a leveraged global value-chain.” We were referring to the leadership of its then CEO.
In subsequent years our commentaries related to Mr. Marchionne’s leadership accomplishments, and by our lens, not much has been written about this visionary, probably because of his no-nonsense style to shun away from the sometimes superstar status that some CEO’s savor.
In a December 2011 blog, Chrysler-Fiat Continues its Journey Towards Synergistic Supply Chain and Manufacturing Strategy Execution, we called attention to a then published Time Magazine article that provided a characteristic quote from the CEO: “People need to trust you that you’re going to pull them out and that they will follow you when you pull them out.  If they don’t get that comfort, they’re going to drop you. This is true of organizations.  It’s true of countries.
In January of 2013, we highlighted for our Supply Chain Matters readers a U.S. National Public Radio interview with Mr. Marchionne held at the Detroit Auto Show. This supply chain management analyst was impressed with Mr. Marchionne’s description of his initial assessment of the company at the time of the takeover.  He described an insular top level management structure that did not have sensitivity to conditions within manufacturing and the supply chain.  In spite of the financial crisis circling the company, it was essential to invest in the manufacturing processes and working environment to restore a quality-oriented culture. We urged our readers to picture themselves as a member of his management team as he spoke of never falling into a state of complacency, in spite of the business successes at Chrysler, and instilling a commitment to quality and excellence.
Mr. Marchionne was a strong believer in elimination of management layers and practices promoting people buried in the ranks to higher levels of responsibility, giving such people all that they need to succeed and prove their potential. At the same time, hold people accountable for definitive results and not shy away from pulling the plug when results are not forthcoming.
He will surely be missed in these times requiring vision and bold leadership, but his legacy will live on.
Rest in peace.
Bob Ferrari
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