Second-guessing Sergio Marchionne’s management of Fiat has become commonplace in Italy, where he faces nearly as much criticism from detractors as the country’s national soccer coach. Many people think they could have done a better job at Fiat than Marchionne, but Giuseppe Volpato is not one of them.
“We should ask ourselves: Where Fiat would be today if it did not encounter Marchionne on its road,” said the Venice University business school dean, who has written two books on Fiat.
Volpato said that when Marchionne joined Fiat in June 2004 it looked unlikely that the company’s auto division could be saved. The most viable pre-Marchionne option was to force General Motors to takeover Fiat Auto. The U.S. giant bought 20 percent of Fiat Auto for $2.4 billion in March 2000 and was contractually obligated to buy the remaining 80 percent.
“If GM had bought Fiat, what would Fiat be today?” Volpato asked. The likely answer is: closed.