MILAN – PSA Peugeot’s takeover of Fiat Chrysler to form the world’s fourth-largest carmaker has had its first executive casualty, with former Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley stepping down from his role of head of the Americas.
Stellantis announced Tuesday that Manley, 57, was leaving to become CEO of AutoNation, the largest dealership network in the U.S., starting Nov. 1. Manley will not be replaced. North America Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart and Antonio Filosa, COO of Lat America, will report directly to Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares.
Manley was named CEO of Fiat Chrysler in July 2018, coinciding with the illness and sudden death of longtime CEO Sergio Marchionne. When Stellantis was formed, Tavares, who was Peugeot’s chief executive, took over as CEO of the combined carmaker.
Manley was credited with the turnaround of the Jeep subsidiary, which was a mainstay of FCA profits, and also was the longtime head of Fiat Chrysler’s Asia operations. Manley is well-respected in the analyst community, lauded for his strong credentials to run a global automaker both in terms of technological and strategic transitions.
Manley is taking over a dealership group that posted more than $20 billion in sales and $382 million in net income last year. He replaces Mike Jackson, an industry icon who has been with AutoNation for 22 years. Jackson retired in 2018, but was called out of retirement when his replacement left the company.
Auto Nation, based in Florida, is the largest chain of car and truck dealerships in the U.S., with more than 300 locations nationwide. The company says it has sold more than 13 million vehicles.
Guidehouse Research Principal Analyst Sam Abuelsamid said it’s likely that Manley began looking for another chief executive job after getting passed over as CEO of Stellantis by Tavares.
At present, there aren't any CEO jobs available at major automakers, so Manley took the job running the largest retailer in the country, he said.
Taking the top job at AutoNation makes sense for Manley, who had to handle dealers and the retail end of the auto business when he ran Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand for years.
Abuelsamid said the job will be challenging for Manley because the ground is shifting dramatically under the dealerships as sales shift more to online, automakers want to sell more through orders, and the world is moving away from combustion engines to electric vehicles.
Also, upstart electric vehicle makers are opening their own stores or selling directly to customers, and with fewer moving parts, electric vehicles could mean lower revenues from repairs and maintenance, he said.
“It’s not going to be an easy job over the next five to 10 years,” Abuelsamid said. “The role of dealers is going to change and shift dramatically as we get more into electrification,” he said.
Manley will retain ties with Stellantis as a board member of the Stellantis Foundation. The native of Britain said “the time feels right for me to open a new chapter,” after 20 years first with Chrysler, then with Fiat Chrysler and finally Stellantis.
Tavares said in a prepared statement that he was sorry to see Manley go.
“It’s been my privilege to know Mike first as a competitor, then as a partner and colleague in the creation of Stellantis, but most importantly, always as a friend,’’ the Stellantis CEO said. “From the very earliest days of our discussions, we shared a truly common vision, belief and commitment and it’s on these solid foundations, built over the past several years, that Stellantis has delivered its impressive early results.”
AutoNation shares rose 2.6% on the news in trading early Tuesday. Stellantis shares were up less than 1%.
Krisher reported from Detroit.