• Jan 18th 2013 at 7:01PM
  • 45
As a reporter covering an auto show, the one opportunity you never want to miss is going to the Sergio Marchionne press briefing.

"This undertaking to bring Alfa back is a one-shot deal... We are not going to do this twice."

There just aren't that many real characters left in the auto industry. Marchionne, who sits atop both Chrysler and Fiat, is not only one of the smartest execs in the business, but also the most frank. Herein, a sample of the quotable always-sweatered executive:

A controversial remark on the return of Alfa Romeo to the United States:

"This undertaking to bring Alfa back is a one-shot deal... We are not going to do this twice... Alfas must have 'wop' engines... and we don't have the powertrains worked out just yet.. we won't put any Chrysler engines in Alfas, or Maseratis."

The production Alfa Romeo 4C sports car, which may be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March, is not ready for a US launch, Marchionne said earlier this week at the Detroit Auto Show. But then, on January 18 at the INforum breakfast in Detroit, Marchionne reportedly reversed course and said the 4C will be ready for US dealers by the end of this year. Given how many delays have been suffered in Alfa's return plans, we'll file this under "wait and see."
On his stable of brands:

Asked by a reporter if he was happy with his current brands, Marchionne replied, "No, actually I want to buy Volkswagen." The answer was intentionally snarky, as Marchionne has been in a pubic battle with Volkswagen AG supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piëch, who has been trying to pressure Marchionne to sell Alfa to the German automaker. Marchionne has publicly singled out VW in recent months for not reducing capacity while Europe's demand for new vehicles languishes. Instead, VW has been exerting great price pressure on weaker rivals in Europe like Fiat, Peugeot, General Motors, Renault and Ford.

2013 Dodge Dart GT - live at 2013 Detroit Auto Show

On the launch of the Dodge Dart:

"I take full ownership for the fact that it wasn't the launch that I wanted." Marchionne admitted that in a desire to pump up fuel economy, Dodge didn't offer the transmission options that Americans might have preferred. "The powertrain is less than ideal," he said during a roundtable discussion with reporters.

"I take full ownership for the fact that it wasn't the launch that I wanted."

The automaker is trying to address some of the Dart's shortcomings and kickstart sluggish sales, as it unveiled a higher-performance version of the compact sedan, the Dart GT (pictured) at the Detroit show. The model features a 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine and sport-tuned suspension with high-tech shock absorbers. But it prices out at $6,000 above the base model.

On minivans and people movers:

Marchionne has been maddeningly unclear about the future of Chrysler's minivan business. The Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan will continue to be produced as-is through 2014. But they will be replaced with one minivan and one additional "people mover" model, both of which he said would be produced in Windsor, Ontario, where the two minivans are produced now. What still lacks clarity is whether Chrysler will get the minivan, with Dodge getting the "people mover," or vice versa. Marchionne is still indefinite on the decision, but we'd bet on the Chrysler brand staying in the minivan business.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pubic battles are the most fun thing to see, second only to poorly edited autoblog articles.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The minivan should remain a Dodge as another commented that it began as a Dodge. Also, the name "CaraVAN" would seem silly applied to another type of vehicle. It is the best selling minivan and Dodge, by the way. Town and Country was originally a large Chrysler station wagon, and perhaps would be appropriately applied to the new "people mover" or a luxury wagon version of the 300.
        Basil Exposition
        • 2 Years Ago
        I grew up in a 1978 Town and Country wagon. Man that thing was GREAT! Even as a little kid I was so upset when my parents sold it.
        to your email L
        • 2 Years Ago
        Actually do a little research Town and Country was a convertible (not as a station wagon, minivan) with real wood on the sides in the late 1940's.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pubic battle, huh?
      • 2 Years Ago
      You see Sergio, it's not really that complicated. You only sell completely loaded Chrysler T&C's, leave all of the other trim levels to Dodge. You may need a little more than just a front fascia to differentiate the two, look at how GM has some unique sheet metal on the Enclave/Acadia/Traverse vehicles. Feel free to call the new people mover the Chrysler Pacifica, it was a nice (underpowered for most of its platform life) vehicle.
      Echelon Bob
      • 2 Years Ago
      "The answer was intentionally snarky, as Marchionne has been in a pubic battle with Volkswagen AG supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piƫch..." If I were in a pubic battle, I think I'd be snarky too...
      • 2 Years Ago
      I recommended a friend who wanted something other than a corolla to check out a Dart. She did and what she said when she bought a Mazda3 instead was quite interesting. She said that configuring and finding one that she wanted on dealer lots was confusing, and I could see her point. Dodge has way too many trim levels and configuration possibilities for this car and while that works in the EU and UK, car buyers in the US looking for this type of car don't really want to have to order what they want and wait for it to be built and shipped. They want it on the lot today. Dodge needs to consider consolidating trim levels and option configurations to make it easier for consumers.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Also, Japanese cars that are actually Made in Japan tend to have much higher levels of equipment in the base form than their US counterpards. Same goes for Japanese cars sold in Europe, it makes no sense to make and tryint sell barebones.
        • 2 Years Ago
        They have drastically reduced the option configurations available. The Rallye model has been discontinued.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The 3.2 twin spark V6 perhaps? That\'s still in the Alfa stable if I\'m not mistaken, runs well, makes a great noise. Just put it in everything, the 159 and Brera could use the extra power anyway.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Minivan started with Dodge. It should staywith Dodge.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really like Marchionne, but so far the two big launches under his watch (Fiat 500 and Dodge Dart) have been initial disasters. They moved aggressively with the 500 and it seems to be selling decently now. They are also taking quick action on the Dart by consolidating the confusing array of options, deleting models (Rallye, sadly) and trimming prices. The new GT with the 2.4 engine and loaded with equipment for $20,900 should prove to be a sales success. However, I am concerned how they mishandled the market launch for both cars. For example, the compact market here is characterized by dull appliance cars like Corolla, Civic and Cruze, yet Dodge emphasized the sporty Rallye model in advertising and loaded the initial batch of cars with manual transmissions. Duh! That killed the early momentum for the car when most people couldn't/wouldn't take a test drive because of the manual transmission. By the time the automatics/dual dry clutch models were available, the bloom was off the rose. On top of that they came out with a dizzying number of trim levels and options for those trim levels. Add mediocre levels of performance for the cars all the while marketing it as a "mini Charger" in a "white bread" market segment and you get the tepid reception the Dart has so far received in the market. As for the minivans, I think eliminating either model as a minivan is another misread of the market that will jeopardize Chrysler's number one status in the minivan market. Based on there history with the 500 and Dart, I don't feel confident they are going to make the right decision about the minivans.
      Kevin Potts
      • 2 Years Ago
      Two things the Dart needs, better mileage and AWD. As For the Minivans, don't fix what ain't broken.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Kevin Potts
        I can name 500 extra things the Dart doesn't need - pounds.
      • 2 Years Ago
      All I got from his cryptic answers is: I wonder who's going to buy Chrysler next?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nothing against Sergio but why does this man's photo needed to be posted here day after day?
        • 2 Years Ago
        Because he is one of the great leaders in the auto industry right now and he is more charismatic that most. Your question is like asking why an article about Sebastian Vettel is on every F1 site... come on.
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