Automotive forums and blogs are melting Cat-6 cable trying to figure out what is going on at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) after the surprising and tragic announcement of Sergio Marchionne’s passing. Mike Manley is now the face of FCA, and everything he does or says from this point on will be over-analyzed to the nth degree, just like Sergio’s words have been.
As the head of Jeep, Manley has already been beaten up on enthusiast forums due to decisions he (and others) have made for Jeep. There is nothing he can say right now that will suddenly make the FCA/Sergio detractors happy, because Mike Manley was part of the management team accused of stealing all of Chrysler’s money for Alfa and Maserati.
That narrative has repeatedly been proven false, but it lives on, in defiance of the facts. Billions have been and are being spent on North American product, not to mention full renovations of just about all North American production and distribution facilities. The billions being invested in production here will allow for more capacity than Ram or Jeep needs… so what will fill it? Since Alfa Romeos and Maseratis must be made in Italy, the only answer can be Dodge and Chrysler vehicles.
It’s time to let go of the idea that money from the US is being diverted to Italy. The company’s cash flow and investments are public, and have been added up many times over. The Dart and 200 failed, so most of the billions invested in them were wasted; but that does not mean the investment did not happen. The money was spent. Life goes on, lessons have been learned, and the company is in a better position to bring new product to the market that it was five years ago. Both the Dart and 200 plants were thoroughly renovated, with completely new robotics and other machinery installed, and that equipment is being used to make Rams and Cherokees.
Analysts and enthusiasts are already drawing lines in the sand about what Manley should or should not do. Even with Sergio gone, it seems FCA will be damned if they do or damned if they don’t. So what should Manley do to appease the Internet pundits and posters?
Mr. Manley, if you read this, stay the course. You have a plan; stick to it the best you can. The hardworking employees of FCA, both in the US and abroad, are counting on you. I wish you luck and look forward to the future of FCA.