Marchionne's staying -- but who's on deck?

Altavilla is a longtime confidant.

UPDATED: 5/12/14 2:17 pm ET - adds correction

CEO Sergio Marchionne, 61, revealed last week that he would see his latest five-year plan through to its conclusion, dispelling any notion that he might leave before 2018.

But the marathon presentation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' plan also served as an audition of sorts for an eventual successor. Some key observations:

Reid Bigland, head of Ram, U.S. and Canada sales: Marchionne and Bigland displayed a nice rapport on stage. He called Bigland to the stage unexpectedly to explain key points to investors. Bigland nailed it.

Mike Manley, head of Jeep and Asia Pacific operations: No executive was given greater responsibility for the future of the company, or played such a vital role in its recent success. In many ways, Manley is a trusted son whose crushing work habits most resemble those of Marchionne.

Richard Palmer, CFO: The ever-rational yin to Marchionne's sometimes-emotional yang, Palmer watches the purse strings. He handled Marchionne's requests crisply and easily.

Alfredo Altavilla, head of business development and of Europe/Middle East/Africa: A longtime Marchionne confidant, fellow traveler and understudy, Altavilla is clearly able to step in at a moment's notice should the need arise. He was handed the most difficult task of all: straightening out Europe.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the first name of Chrysler CFO Richard Palmer.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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