Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne To Step Down, Warns Auto Industry of Commoditization

January 16, 2018, 1:12 AM UTC

Sergio Marchionne, who has led Fiat Chrysler Automobiles since 2009, has words of advice for the automobile industry: The future of cars is coming swiftly, and if you can’t innovate and differentiate, you won’t survive.

Marchionne, one of the longest-serving chief executives in the auto industry, confirmed on Monday, the opening of the North American International Auto Show, that he is stepping down from his position as CEO next year. The automaker in June will release a business plan extending through 2022, after which it will name Marchionne’s successor. The executive also announced that Fiat Chrysler would not sell Jeep to interested Chinese buyers.

Prior to his announcement, Marchionne offered his peers some words of wisdom via an interview with Bloomberg for surviving a rapidly changing industry thanks to the advent of electric cars, ride-sharing, and self-driving vehicles.

“If a portion of the industry is going to be commoditized,” Marchionne told Bloomberg, “then the attrition rate is going to be tremendous for those that cannot distinguish by brand.”

The CEO also predicted that by 2025, “More than half of the power units you see on the road will have some relevance of electrification”—if not fully electric some hybrid form of combustion and electric.

In 10 years, Marchionne said, so-called Level 4 automation will be widespread—meaning many cars would be fully automated in certain but not all conditions. In 2017, FCA entered a partnership with BMW and Intel to develop self-driving technology.

But it’s not just a matter of technology, Machionne insisted. Automakers need to clarify what their brands stand for in the minds of drivers.

“If you look at Jeep, Ram, and the premium brands, those are brands that will survive,” he said of his company’s own portfolio. “But if you provide basic transportation”—and nothing more—”it is like buying a generic phone.”