DETROIT — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley clearly learned many lessons from his predecessor — and even some the late Sergio Marchionne never intended to teach.
In moving to open a second assembly plant in Detroit and naming a COO for North America last week, Manley proved what a good student he was during his extended apprenticeship at Marchionne's side.
One example of a lesson learned: never again cut off the flow of a hugely profitable product for months at a time to retool an assembly plant. It was a costly lesson for Marchionne in 2013 with the botched launch of the Jeep Cherokee, which left the brand without a midsize SUV for more than a year.
To help prevent a repeat of that situation, FCA will convert the Mack II engine plant it closed in 2012 into an assembly operation for three-row Grand Cherokees in the 2021 model year, according to a report last week in The Detroit News that Automotive News subsequently confirmed.
The additional plant should allow FCA to retool its Jefferson North Assembly Plant, which makes the Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango across the street from Mack II, in time for the planned redesign of the Grand Cherokee in 2020 without interrupting the supply of its top-line Jeep SUV.
Manley also learned to delegate his responsibilities rather than hoarding titles the way his predecessor did.
Marchionne was an admitted workaholic with scores of direct reports and a host of executive titles that spanned both the globe and several corporations. His pace and the sheer scope of his responsibilities were a thing of wonder — until Marchionne died before he had a chance to retire.