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After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles merges with PSA Group early next year, FCA dealers are eager to have a Jeep force at the helm in Mike Manley.
Manley, FCA’s CEO, will become head of Americas for the new company, called Stellantis, FCA said last week.
“Most of the dealers would attribute the explosion of the Jeep product to Mike Manley,” said Wes Lutz, president of Extreme Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Jackson, Mich. “He has done an outstanding job with Jeep. He is leading at a time when we have three tremendous products in the pipeline.”
The new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer and a redesigned Grand Cherokee are slated go on sale in 2021.
“He was very good at listening,” Lutz said. “We’re doing a third-row seat in the Grand Cherokee, which is something we needed. It’s going to be an awesome product for us.”
Manley, 56, has always been “a product guy,” said Steve Kalafer, CEO of Flemington Car & Truck Country in New Jersey. He’s not warm and fuzzy, but he’s passionate, Kalafer said. And he’s an expert in multiple aspects of the business.
“He knows the dealer body very, very well across North America,” Kalafer said.
“I think he will be very helpful in getting [Stellantis] started with an efficient, first-class distribution system immediately.”
David Kelleher, president of David Auto Group in Glen Mills, Pa., called Manley a “hard charger” with a deep understanding of the North American business.
Kelleher is confident Manley will ensure the needs of U.S. dealers are represented in the new global organization.
“If you bring him smart ideas that happen to be good for the dealers and he also sees something for the entire FCA entity, he’ll act on them,” he said. “You don’t go to Mike with something that’s good for only one party.”
Manley will lead Stellantis’ operations in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
He has worked with PSA CEO Carlos Tavares for more than a year to arrange the merger, which is expected to close before April.
Stellantis will be the fourth-largest global automaker by volume, based on 2019 sales.
Manley succeeded the late Sergio Marchionne as FCA’s CEO in July 2018, after leading Jeep from 2009 to 2018 and Ram from 2015 to 2018. Under Manley, Jeep quadrupled its global sales.
“The fact that as FCA we are entering this new and exciting era in such very strong, robust shape is a great tribute to him and his leadership style,” FCA Chairman John Elkann, who will be chairman of Stellantis, said in a letter to employees.
FCA’s U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 21 percent in the first three quarters of 2020 compared with an 18.4 percent decline for the industry. FCA and other automakers are still trying to restock after closing North American plants for two months in the spring to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Dealers are optimistic about the merger, product pipeline and Manley’s continued leadership, Lutz said. “The dealers in general are really excited about the next chapter,” he said.
Michael Martinez and Peter Sigal contributed to this report.