• Apr 13th 2009 at 1:27PM
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If you were surprised by the "resignation" of GM chief Rick Wagoner late last month, get used to the idea. Chrysler reportedly has some major management changes in store as well, including a new seven-member executive board including representatives from Fiat and the Obama administration's automotive task force. But while Bob Nardelli may stay on to chair that board, Chrysler's next CEO may not even be American. Sources close to the ongoing negotiations between Chrysler LLC and the Fiat Group suggest that part of the new arrangement could see Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionnne taking the top job at the Detroit automaker with which he's jumping into bed.
Sound crazy? Not as crazy as you might think. The architect of Fiat's impressive turn-around from a struggling conglomerate into one of Europe's biggest automakers, Marchionne is a Canadian citizen and was educated just a hop, skip and a jump away from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario. Further, he holds court twice a month at the suburban Chicago offices of Fiat's agricultural subsidiary, Case New Holland. Obama has publicly praised Marchionne's management, which could see him take a hands-on approach to running the two allied companies similar to how Carlos Ghosn, another highly rated European automotive executive, runs Nissan and Renault.

Chrysler and Fiat have until the end of the month to iron out a plan, but it may be more complicated than straight-up bilateral negotiations, as several third parties also figure into the mix. First is Cerberus Capital Management, which owns a majority stake in Chrysler at the moment. Next up is Daimler, which is still locked in negotiations with Cerberus to offload its remaining stake in Chrysler. After throwing in representatives from the United Auto Workers, some of America's biggest financial institutions (many not faring much better than Chrysler themselves) hold several billions in the company's debt. Sure, Marchionne may get the job, but he's going to have one heck of a time getting all this sorted out.

[Source: Automotive News – subs. req'd]

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