Steve Zanlunghi

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Name: Steve Zanlunghi
Title: Managing director
Company: Fiat Group Automobiles UK
Location: London, England
Age: 40
Family: Wife, Melissa; son, Joe, 5; daughter, Ella, 2
Born: New York, New York, USA
Nationality: USA & Australian
Languages: English, basic Italian
Education: Bachelor's degree in business management, Providence College, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

 

What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?

My dad and middle brother are in the helicopter business, but cars always interested me. I started at Chrysler’s regional call center in the New York City metropolitan area and was then promoted to the national call center in Detroit.

Greatest achievement?

Rebuilding the Chrysler and Jeep brands and network in the UK. When I arrived, 41 percent of our dealers had given us notice of voluntary termination. We were forced to make a decision on either exiting the UK with those brands or figuring out a plan to make the brands viable quickly. I was able to present a brief overview of the plan in a one-on-one meeting with our CEO, who supported it. We were able to turn around an average 138,000 pound loss per dealer in 2012 to a 55,000 pound profit in 2013. We also posted a 42 percent increase in sales for the Jeep brand so far in 2014 (through Q1).

Biggest failure and what it taught you?

When I took over as the Mid-Atlantic regional director we put together an edgy plan without checking with the dealers. The network didn’t buy into it and we had a tough month. I learned quickly that just because something sounds great in the office meeting rooms doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in success in the real world.

What is your current challenge at work?

Maintaining the momentum we have built in the UK and not getting complacent. This is a cyclical business and you need to be ready for the downturns and upswings.

What about the auto industry surprises you?

The vast difference in awareness and education about automotive digital technology. Not just between North America and Europe but also within the European countries there are some big differences from market to market.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Always think a level ahead of your current position. This forces you to understand the strategy your boss is trying to execute and also helps you become a valuable contributor to future strategy.

What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?

Be prepared to think multi-dimensionally. The auto industry is one of the most dynamic businesses in the world and is one of the only industries that covers just about every business function.

As CEO of a company what was the first thing you did?

I reconfigured the layout of our headquarters, moving my office next to the sales and marketing teams. I also moved our network development team up to the same floor.

What job do you really want to have in the future?

Eventually, I would like to run one of our global brands.

What do you do to relax?

I play ice hockey in a pretty competitive expat league on Sunday nights and also help coach my son’s under-10 team. I work out consistently to stay in shape and relieve stress. In July I am going to compete in a Tough Mudder, which is basically an off-road half marathon with an obstacle every mile that they use to train U.S. Special Forces.

First car?

1983 Datsun Maxima. That thing was a tank. All I needed to do was fill it with gasoline and change the oil. I ended up putting more than 175,000 miles on it.

Current car?

Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s sometimes tough to navigate the narrow streets of London, but I love my Jeeps.

Career highlights

July 2012-present: CEO/managing director, Fiat Group Automobiles UK; and chairman, Fiat Group Automobiles Ireland, Slough, England

May-July 2012: Sales and commercial operations, Fiat Group Auto, Turin, Italy

2010-2012: Director, Mid-Atlantic Business Center, Chrysler Group, Elkridge, Maryland, USA

June 2009-January 2010: Senior manager sales operations, Mid-Atlantic Business Center, Chrysler Group, Maryland

June 2008-June 2009: Senior dealer operations manager, Baltimore/Washington, D.C., Chrysler Group LLC, Elkridge, Maryland, USA

2006-2008: U.S. sales field operations, Chrysler, Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA

2004-2006: Dealer operations manager, DaimlerChrysler, Northern California, San Francisco, California, USA

2003-2004: Dealer operations manager, DaimlerChrysler, Hawaii/Micronesia, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

2002-2003: Dealer placement manager, DaimlerChrysler, Washington, D.C., USA

2000-2002: Retail marketing manager, DaimlerChrysler, Washington, D.C., USA

1999-2000: District manager sales and service, DaimlerChrysler, various locations, USA

1997-1999: Senior staff, customer call center, DaimlerChrysler, Auburn Hills, Michigan

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