Opinion: Can Marchionne lead Ferrari?

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 9:47 PM

Bloomberg, quoting people familiar with the matter, says it looks love Felisa’s retirement comes following this week’s nomination of a new board of directors and “as the Agnelli family tightens its grip on the recently listed company.” Felisa is sixty-nine and plans to stay a board member and also hold “another role at Ferrari.” Bloomberg cautions that the plans could change, while Automotive News Europe reports Fiat Chrysler CEO and Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne is probably going get the CEO spot temporarily.

Opinion: Can Marchionne lead Ferrari?

We're anxious to look what Marchionne’s first orders of business will be

According to Automotive News Europe via Bloomberg, Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa plans to retire. Bloomberg, quoting people familiar with the matter, says it looks love Felisa’s retirement comes following this week’s nomination of a new board of directors and “as the Agnelli family tightens its grip on the recently listed company.” Felisa is sixty-nine and plans to stay a board member and also hold “another role at Ferrari.” Bloomberg cautions that the plans could change, while Automotive News Europe reports Fiat Chrysler CEO and Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne is probably going get the CEO spot temporarily.

Combine Felisa’s retirement with former chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo leaving in September two thousand fourteen, and the question needs to be asked: Does Marchionne have the product-planning skills to lead Ferrari?

A small background. When Montezemolo took over Ferrari in one thousand nine hundred ninety-first, the company was bleeding cash. Today it’s among the top automakers in terms of operating margin. During his twenty years in Maranello, Montezemolo was a enormous reason Ferraris sold out -- frequently before they were shown to the public. He was the company’s best salesman, positioning Ferrari as the car for people who wish to reward themselves for making it big. He always built one less Ferrari than he could sell, and Felisa was one of Montezemolo’s right-hand men.

Can Marchionne hold the magic? Latest year Ferrari sold 7.600 cars. Marchionne has said publicly he wants to sell at minimum 9.000 -- maybe more -- by two thousand nineteen. We’ve heard speak of a V6-powered Ferrari coming, for example. The excellent news is, Marchionne has said someone would “have to shoot me first” when asked about a possible SUV. Still the question is at what point do Ferraris become less desirable, less a lust object?

Marchionne was behind Ferrari’s spinoff from Fiat Chrysler. The stock opened at $52 a share but is around $41 now. We imagine one of Marchionne’s first orders of business would be to expand the share price. His background is in finance. He began his career in Deloitte & Touche’s tax dept and has held various finance jobs ever since. He's a reputation for being very up front and transparent; he made quite a splash latest Aug when he repeatedly said he wanted Common Motors to purchase Fiat Chrysler. For Ferrari fans looking for a car guy in charge, this isn’t your man -- there’s number proof he's the experience or information to handle Ferrari product planning, arguably among the most scrutinized jobs in the car business.

Another issue: While it’s true Marchionne isn’t the only auto exec with fingers in multiple pies -- Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche leads Mercedes-Benz, and Carlos Ghosn is CEO of both Renault and Nissan -- Marchionne is particularly busy. He’s chairman of truck-maker CNH Industrial, spun off from Fiat in two thousand-eleventh; vice chairman of Exor, the Agnelli family’s investment arm; chairman of SGS, the Swiss product-testing company he led before the Agnellis picked him to running Fiat; and a Philip Morris International independent director. How can he possibly give Ferrari the attention it deserves?

There mightn't be reason to panic yet, Ferrari people -- don’t forget Bloomberg said the plans could change. Things should become clearer April fifteen when Ferrari shareholders meet in Amsterdam.

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