Sergio Marchionne likes to call himself a humble "man of industry." Whether you buy the humble part or not, the auto industry has rarely seen another executive quite like him.
Some have called him a visionary. Others prefer to label him as an eccentric workaholic so focused on the task that he can't stand less than perfection.
He doesn't wear suits and neckties. He's a combination big-picture visionary and tireless micromanager who likes to be involved in the smallest decision, whether it is about advertising or the arc of a curve in a new design.
In a word, Marchionne, just months shy of 60, is relentless. He has nearly 50 direct reports, half of them at Chrysler's head office in Auburn Hills, Mich., and the other half at Fiat's headquarters in Turin, Italy.
When he took the reins at Chrysler Group on June 10, 2009, Marchionne was greeted with widespread skepticism. Few believed the hard-charging Italian-Canadian executive had much chance to fix a company that was badly broken, even with an infusion of loan money from the Canadian and U.S. governments.
But Marchionne drove his team to overhaul Chrysler's product lineup, transforming it from weak to respectable within two years. Starting in mid-2010, Chrysler has launched 16 new or significantly revamped vehicles for the 2011 model year. The results have been nothing short of impressive. The company has racked up 19 straight months of year-over-year sales increases.
And Chrysler vehicles jumped considerably in Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey with Jeep rated the top domestic brand. That's a far cry from 2008, when three of the magazine's 11 worst vehicles were Jeeps.
After paying back its $7.6 billion in U.S. and Canadian government loans six years early, Chrysler is on target to post its first net profit since 2005.
Marchionne knows the battle to rescue Chrysler is not over. In fact, the most critical phase is just starting -- the launch of a compact Dodge sedan built on a Fiat platform that will be the blueprint for the integration of the American and Italian companies.
Marchionne, the Automotive News' Industry Leader of the Year and North American CEO All-Star, is fond of quoting famous literary and historical figures in his speeches. As he said in a speech in Montreal in early October: "As Winston Churchill said, after the British won an important victory in World War II, 'Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.'"