Suddenly, the air is full of valedictory verbiage about Sergio Marchionne, creator and boss of the Fiat Chrysler group, who has died with a shocking suddenness that seems completely at odds with his dominant, always-there persona in life.
His legacies will be the years-long rescue of Fiat and Chrysler (and Alfa), his certainty that big-note corporate car industry mergers would have to continue — hence the audacious but unsuccessful attempts to join up with GM — and an abiding impression that on the corporate stage he was somehow more sure-footed than the rest of them.
Hence the feeling of concern we car-lovers felt, every one of us, when we speculated on what life was going to be like without him at the top of FCA following next year’s much-publicised retirement. British-born Jeep chief Mike Manley must be feeling that in spades right now, having been handed just about the toughest big-note car industry gig going.
I’ll remember Marchionne on a personal level both for warmth and cool. Warm in personal chat, coolness in the brilliant, witty eloquence he always deployed when chatting or answered questions.
Once, at a meeting in London, he described at length and with total candour his admiration and warm personal regard for bike race star Valentino Rossi, who he insisted was Fiat sponsored because it made great business sense, while also making it clear the company was doing this because he wanted it.