In July of 2018, Sergio Marchionne, the executive responsible for merging two faltering automakers into the unstoppable force known as Fiat-Chrysler, died at the age of 66. And while his passing was certainly a sorrowful headline in live auto news circles, so were such groundbreaking offerings as the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Demon, Redeye and Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk which speak to the quality of fruits his leadership had yielded. In fact, Marchionne was able to lay out a thorough strategy to navigate the rigors of the next few years prior to his passing, meaning that FCA supporters can rest easy, knowing that the best might be yet to come.
However, recent leaks indicate FCA has been keen to keep some of their ‘backstage drama’ under wraps, depicting the very real possibility of a power struggle. And based on the information we’ve been privy to a great deal involves a power struggle and the long-awaited arrival of the truck-inspired Jeep Gladiator.
Meet Max Decimer, the FCA executive long-considered to be Marchionne’s right-hand man. Under Marchionne’s mentorship, Decimer had proven himself to be a capable and insightful leader, mirroring the compassion of the late-CEO and honoring his client-centric approach. In fact, Decimer was long favored to succeed Marchionne at the head of FCA’s executive table.
And according to the testimony of those close to Marchionne, their speculation might be right. Despite the insistence (to the contrary) by Marchionne’s formerly-illegitimate son, Luca Commodus-Marchionne, Decimer was always considered the heir-apparent. And while we do our best to stay away from unsubstantiated hearsay, there are even rumors that Luca’s disappointment may have motivated the CEO’s sudden demise.
According to Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales, “We all thought Max was ‘the man’. Great guy. Solid guy. The kind of guy who’ll make you a better contributor, buy you a shot, and turn you down when you suggest that he should bang your shrew of a wife just to shut her thirsty ass down. Needless to say, we were all surprised when Luca took control of the management team and demoted Decimer to New Products Division.
Toiling away, Decimer was quick to earn favor with other employees (many of whom were encouraging him to initiate a coup, usurping the bastard son of Marchionne for control of FCA.
Ralph Gilles, Overseer of FCA’s Design Division elaborated stating, “Decimer wasn’t interested in power plays. He just dedicated himself to the creation of new vehicle designs, and even tried his hand at a few products which were faltering a bit.” Projects like Jeep’s truck inspired concept which was then in development under the name “Scrambler”.
But according to Design team members, Decimer grew tired of the new CEO’s lack of interest in an employee-centric culture. Between firings, demotions, pay scaling and forced overtime, FCA was becoming an entirely different company than the one Sergio Marchionne had built. Even Luca Commodus-Marchionne was aware of his dwindling approval rating, and the rumors of support building behind Decimer.
And thus, at the 2018 FCA Christmas Party, Luca Commodus-Marchionne challenged Max Decimer to battle, in the hope of eliminating his competition regaining favor. Standing on the dancefloor, the CEO brandished a broadsword as the ‘Cha Cha Slide” played awkwardly in the background.
At that moment, in front of the confused audience, Decimer rose but refused to fight. He spoke to the guests, stating that “FCA should not select its management by combat, but through the proliferation of innovative ideas and leadership philosophies.”
He then unholstered a copy of his plans for the aforementioned Jeep truck, one that he had renamed the “Jeep Gladiator”. Holding the plans up to the management team to view, he demanded a ruling in the form of the pollice verso (a signal originating in the Roman Colosseum, where thumbs up indicated that the gladiator would live and thumbs down meant death).
But just as they turned back to him, ready to offer a thumbs up, Max Decimer fell to the ground, speared with the broadsword of Luca Commodus-Marchionne, who was then shot with tasers by the Sheraton Four-Points Security team. Marchionne would be incarcerated on First Degree Murder charges, while Decimer’s Jeep Gladiator would go on to be a major headline of 2018.
And all of these events led to the appointment of Michael Manley as Marchionne’s formal replacement, who stated, “It’s good to be done with the drama…but we’re really excited about the Jeep Gladiator”.