Brilliant, arrogant, temperamental, mercurial, opportunistic, talented, captivating, infuriating, stubborn — all apply to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne.
But one thing about Marchionne, a former tax accountant and philosophy student, stands out after nearly 15 years running the Fiat holding company and now FCA: The guy knows how to make money.
Few people in automotive history have as impressive a legacy of wealth creation as the 65-year-old Marchionne: Henry Ford, Billy Durant, Karl Benz and Kiichiro Toyoda among them. But those titans were like the industry's farmers — cultivating businesses from scratch and nurturing them into today's automaking giants.
Marchionne, in contrast, has been the fireman — running into the ruins of once-great companies, putting out the flames and rebuilding something better than before.
History will determine which was harder, a judgment that will begin in about a year, when Marchionne hands over the keys to his as-yet-unnamed successor.
Like Lee Iaccoca and men whose names are still inscribed on today's vehicles, Marchionne will leave an outsized void when he retires next year.
Yet it wasn't very long ago that few in the U.S. auto industry even knew of Marchionne.