We’ve lost a true automotive visionary this week. Here we look at five of Serigio Marchionne's contemporary cars destined to become modern classics
‘Marchionne was hired to fix Fiat in 2004, when the Italian carmaker was worth $7.5bn. Today he died, with Fiat, Chrysler and Ferrari worth roughly 10 times that.’
Those are the words of The Financial Times correspondent Henry Foy on the passing of Sergio Marchionne on July 25 2018 following complications from surgery. The year before Marchionne was appointed the CEO of Fiat, the company’s shares were at their lowest since 1985 – yet by in 2009 things had so stabilised that he was able to mastermind the acquisition of the bankrupt Chrysler organisation. He was the man in the black sweater who, at times seemingly by sheer force of will, turned what became Fiat Chrysler Automobiles into the world’s seventh-largest auto manufacturer.
- Former Fiat and Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne dies aged 66
- Sergio Marchionne’s top five greatest achievements
- Fancy a Ferrari? Plenty for sale here
To select five of the most important cars that came about during his Turin reign – no less a term will suffice – is a task that’s not so much difficult as impossible. Here is a quintet that encapsulates the facets of the career of the man who believed in that Ernest Hemingway maxim: ‘There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.’
2007: Fiat 500
The year 2004 now seems so distant, it’s sometimes forgotten that Fiat’s line-up was then badly in need of revitalisation. To use the name of one of Turin’s key post-war models was itself fraught with risk, but today the company has manufactured more than two million 500s.
2013: Jeep Cherokee KL
Marchionne understood that ‘Jeep’ was not merely an automotive brand, but a genuine American icon. As USA Today reported, ‘Global Jeep sales jumped from 730,000 in 2013 to a goal of 1.9 million in 2018’, and now the Cherokee – which is based on a Fiat platform – can be seen in suburban driveways across the USA.
2015: Alfa Romeo Giulia 952
A rear-wheel-drive, medium-sized sports saloon that both revived one of the most famous names in Alfa Romeo’s history and is the company’s rival to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series. As for the Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde, one J Clarkson described it in The Sunday Times on July 26, 2016 thus: ‘Alfa Romeo has made a car dynamically better than the BMW. And it has. It really has. This is Iceland beating England. And I couldn’t be more pleased.’
2017: Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
When you gaze upon the 828bhp behemoth that is the Challenger SRT Demon, bear in mind that the Chrysler organisation was until recently in genuine danger of following Hudson and Packard into oblivion. If the Obama administration had not agreed to Fiat acquiring a 20 percent share in the Detroit giant, the marques associated with the Pentastar badge would have passed into history. When the most powerful production V8 took a bow, it was a further testament to the Marchionne era at Fiat.
2017: Ferrari 812 Superfast
‘Ferrari supercars are so hot that they’re sold out into 2019’ read the Bloomberg headline in two months ago. Of course, there were those who regarded a three-year waiting list and an asking price of ‘lots of money’ as highly reasonable for a new Rosso Settanta 812. The top speed is 211mph and the acceleration is 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds…