Marchionne: Chrysler will never again be a victim of circumstances
Photo credit: Bloomberg
DETROIT -- Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said the secret to the automaker's current success is a commitment to never again be a victim of the circumstances that led to the company's collapse in 2009.
Speaking to about 1,000 people today at the 11th annual InForum auto show breakfast, Marchionne recalled touring Chrysler's headquarters building as the company was coming out of bankruptcy and looking at the scared faces of those still there.
But 42 months later, he said Chrysler's culture has changed dramatically, and continues to change everyday.
"Anyone joining Fiat or Chrysler today will not find a fossilized organization, but rather one that is in ferment, in a state of continuous change and transformation," Marchionne told the regional women's networking organization.
Among the automaker's top managers -- the two dozen or so people who report directly to Marchionne and who have cross responsibilities with each other -- there is now a greater fear of letting one another down.
"We have learned to live in a culture of change, of feeling comfortable in the discomfort of uncertainty, of measuring ourselves each day with the yardstick of competition," the 60-year-old CEO said.
Speaking of diversity, Marchionne said companies that don't actively encourage women and minorities into higher positions of authority are "looking at the world with only one eye."
Marchionne said Chrysler's largest accomplishment since it emerged from bankruptcy is that it "changed the conversation." Instead of a company on the verge of disappearing, Chrysler is a profitable, dynamic automaker whose products are praised for their innovations. But he said he still worries that Chrysler's transformation is an illusion.
"In the back of my head I always have a gnawing doubt that the culture change we have been working on for the last 3 years is only skin deep; that it is reserved for the first layers of the organization, and that we are not reaching everyone, we are not getting to our dealers and our suppliers," Marchionne said. He said he reserves one month each year to review personnel evaluations across both Fiat and Chrysler.
He added: "I do not ever want to wake up one day and find out that it was just a dream."
To listen to an NPR interview with Marchionne that aired today, click here.
You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at firstname.lastname@example.org.