Fiat’s Ital­ian home bids farewell to late CEO

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Turin, Italy – The heir to Fiat’s found­ing fam­ily paid an emo­tional farewell to Ser­gio Mar­chionne, the late CEO of Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles telling mourn­ers Fri­day that “he taught all of us … to have the courage to change.”

In a eu­logy at a packed Turin Cathe­dral, John Elkann, his voice crack­ing, echoed Mar­chionne’s in­de­fati­ga­ble work ethic in his eu­logy, say­ing “never take a break or a deep breath af­ter a vic­tory, be­cause life doesn’t stop.”

Mar­chionne, who turned around both Fiat and U.S. car­maker Chrysler to cre­ate the world’s sev­enth-largest car­maker FCA, died July 25 at age 66 af­ter com­pli­ca­tions fol­low­ing shoul­der surgery in a Swiss hospi­tal.

A pri­vate com­mem­o­ra­tive ser­vice will be held in Auburn Hills on Sept. 27. The com­pany Fri­day said the do­mes­tic ser­vice will be mostly for em­ploy­ees.

Mar­chionne’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health, re­vealed just days be­fore his death, forced three pub­licly traded com­pa­nies – Fiat Chrysler it­self, Fer­rari and CNH In­dus­trial – to scramble to in­stall new lead­er­ship.

It was later dis­closed that he had been re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for an undis­closed ill­ness for a year.

Mar­chionne had been plan­ning to step down as FCA CEO next year, and had out­lined a new five-year business plan for the com­pany in June. But he had been ex­pected to con­tinue on at Fer­rari and was due to up­date the sports car com­pany’s business plans this month. That will fall next week to his Fer­rari suc­ces­sor, former chair­man of Fer­rari spon­sor Philip Mor­ris In­ter­na­tional, Louis Camil­leri, who also at­tended the me­mo­rial along with FCA’s new CEO, Mike Man­ley.

Ital­ian work­ers clad in assem­bly line jump­suits em­bla­zoned with the names of Fiat’s brands stood in the aisles while black-suited ex­ec­u­tives span­ning decades of Fiat’s of­ten dif­fi­cult his­tory

packed the pews. Mourn­ers also in­cluded two former prime min­is­ters, local of­fi­cials and fam­ily mem­bers, among them his com­pan­ion, two grown sons and rel­a­tives from Mar­chionne’s na­tive Abruzzo.

Mar­chionne, who em­i­grated to Canada as a teen with his fam­ily, has been buried along­side his par­ents and his sis­ter in Toronto.

Dur­ing his 14-year ten­ure as CEO, Mar­chionne cat­a­pulted Fiat, which for decades had re­lied on gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies and the do­mes­tic mar­ket, into a global car com­pany fol­low­ing the Chrysler merger. His time at the helm drew upon both his Ital­ian sen­si­bil­i­ties and An­gloSaxon ed­u­ca­tion.

The arch­bishop of Turin, Mon­signor Ce­sare Nosiglia, said that Mar­chionne had used his con­sid­er­able tal­ents for the greater good, help­ing se­cure the fu­ture of the Ital­ian car com­pany that had cre­ated Turin’s des­tiny as an in­dus­trial city.

“Ser­gio Mar­chionne was en­trusted with a glo­ri­ous trea­sure, in a mo­ment when it was most com­pro­mised,” Nosiglia said. “His work, in Turin as in Amer­ica, was for ev­ery­one an im­pe­tus to not give up hope. He helped us to un­der­stand that we need to con­tin­u­ally come to terms with our his­tory, but that we should not be afraid of the new, of up­dat­ing our hori­zons.”

Work­ers bussed in from all cor­ners of Italy re­mem­bered how Mar­chionne would visit fac­tory floors, taking time to ex­change a few words, pay­ing at­ten­tion to the small­est de­tails and sprin­kling his ad­dresses with philoso­pher quotes and clas­si­cal mu­sic. They said his death, at a del­i­cate mo­ment for the Ital­ian plants with the re­launch of pre­mium brands Alfa Romeo and Maserati still un­der­way, was a shock.

“Mar­chionne was al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated by work­ers be­cause he gave hope,” said Marco Fer­raro, an 18-year em­ployee at an en­gine fac­tory near Naples.

Fer­raro es­pe­cially praised him for re­launch­ing Alfa Romeo with mod­els wor­thy of its racy his­tory, in­clud­ing the Gi­u­lia sedan.

“Mar­chionne can be com­pared with the Gi­u­lia, as a sym­bol of Italy, and of strength.”

Alessan­dro Di Marco / AP

Fer­rari work­ers at­tend a com­mem­o­ra­tive Mass on Fri­day for late CEO Ser­gio Mar­chionne in Turin's cathe­dral, Italy. Ital­ian work­ers clad in assem­bly line jump­suits em­bla­zoned with the names of Fiat’s brands stood in the aisles while ex­ec­u­tives packed the pews.

Bill Pugliano / Getty Im­ages

Dur­ing his 14-year ten­ure as CEO, Ser­gio Mar­chionne cat­a­pulted Fiat into a global car com­pany fol­low­ing the Chrysler merger.

Alessan­dro Di Marco / AP

New Fiat CEO Mike Man­ley ar­rives Fri­day for a com­mem­o­ra­tive Mass for its late CEO Ser­gio Mar­chionne in Turin's cathe­dral, Italy.

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