Marchionne: next Chrysler CEO likely to be named after 2015

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. ― Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of both Chrysler and its controlling shareholder Fiat SpA, said he hoped to stay on through 2015 and would groom a successor from within the company’s ranks.

Marchionne, who orchestrated Fiat’s management takeover of the U.S. automaker, has been the architect of Chrysler’s revival after a 2009 bankruptcy funded by the Obama administration.

Some auto industry executives and bankers have privately questioned how long Marchionne could sustain an intense, hands-on management style marked by long workdays and frequent flights between Turin and Detroit.

Speaking at an industry conference on Wednesday, Marchionne said he hoped that a merged Chrysler-Fiat would become one of the industry’s largest global competitors.

“It’s going to be up to the guy after me, after 2015 hopefully,” Marchionne said during a question and answer session at an industry conference. “Maybe a year later, I don’t know. I’m 59 now. There’s going to be a guy after me, that’s for sure.”

Marchionne’s mention of a successor corresponded to a dip in Fiat’s share price. The shares closed 1.73 percent lower at 5.98 euros on Wednesday.

Marchionne later told reporters, in response to a question: “I brought up 2015 as a point of reference. But the last thing we want is speculation about when I’m going to leave. I technically can go beyond 2015.”

The 2015 mark would be a year after Chrysler completes its five-year turnaround plan, which was outlined in November 2009. The plan calls for Fiat and Chrysler to sell a combined 6.6 million cars and trucks by 2014, up from just over 3.6 million in 2010.

A successor to Marchionne will likely come from the newly formed group executive council, a team of 22 Fiat and Chrysler executives that will oversee the integration of the two automakers. The majority of the council is made up executives from Fiat.