"People were saying to me, 'Oh, you poor bastard, they're not going to make it.'"
Marchionne wasted no time in the first board meeting that summer explaining why he was the right man for the job.
At the top of Marchionne's agenda was the new Jeep Grand Cherokee about to go into production at Jefferson North.
Everyone in the room knew that the profits the Jeep could generate had the potential to save the company.
"Our question was: When the updated version rolls out, will it be really good?" Blanchard said.
Marchionne took directors on a field trip to Chrysler's proving grounds, a test track in the countryside west of Ann Arbor, Mich.
He had a secret.
A few months earlier, just before Chrysler filed Chapter 11 on April 30, 2009, Marchionne arrived in Auburn Hills to take his first look at the Grand Cherokee -- the one Gilles and his team had designed.
The CEO, sporting his signature sweater, offered his unvarnished opinion: good, not great.
"He thought it was handsome, but I think he thought it was a little innocuous -- probably a little safe in his opinion," Gilles recalled.
Marchionne was appalled by the Jeep's lack of luxury touches -- such as the sparkling LED headlights and taillights that had become standard adornment on luxury cars, like the Ferraris and Maseratis that Fiat makes in Italy.
"Where are the leds? Where are the leds?" he demanded in his low, Italian rumble, pronouncing the letters like a word.
Gilles explained Chrysler couldn't afford them.