Originally published in TIME Magazine, Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011
Without Sergio Marchionne, America’s No. 3 automaker would almost surely not exist today. His vision for what a Chrysler-Fiat alliance could achieve, his success at turning around the faltering Italian company and his limitless energy were all critical to President Obama’s decision two years ago to keep Chrysler afloat using taxpayer dollars.
Invariably cloaked in a black sweater and alternately charming and bullying, the Italian-born, Canadian-bred Marchionne, 58, swept into Chrysler with no matter too large or too small for his relentless focus. Symbolically, he moved the CEO’s office from splendid executive-tower isolation to the fourth floor of the engineering building, elbow to elbow with key execs. Substantively, he overhauled Chrysler’s tired product line.
While the final verdict on Chrysler has yet to be rendered, early signs are promising. The company turned an operating profit in 2010. And Marchionne’s beloved new models have garnered some much needed positive reviews.