Fiat & Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s pointed remarks have attracted the ire of Europe’s 500 pound gorilla Volkswagen. VW demanded that Marchionne steps down as president of the European auto manufacturers association ACEA. If he won’t resign, Volkswagen could resign its ACEA membership – which would send the club into instant irrelevancy, not to mention insolvency.
“Marchionne is unbearable as president of ACEA,” Volkswagen communications chief Stephan Grühsem told Reuters. “In our view, his comments are unqualified yet again. We’re therefore calling on him to step down.” If Marchionne won’t heed the call from Wolfsburg, Volkswagen’s “exit from the manufacturers association is an option,” Grühsem told Germany’s Spiegel magazine.
In an article in the New York Times, Sergio Marchionne accused Volkswagen of exploiting the European crisis to gain market share by offering aggressive discounts, “It’s a bloodbath of pricing and it’s a bloodbath on margins,” Marchionne told the paper.
Marchionne currently holds the rotating appointment of the presidency of the European manufacturers club. After he took over, his remarks and initiatives often were regarded as overly reflecting the interests of Fiat and possibly other scratched and dented European makers only, and to run against the interests of the powerful German contingent. By openly attacking Volkswagen, Marchionne burned a bridge too far.
Marchionne is not very popular amongst Europe’s auto CEOs. Privately, some call him an upstart clown, or worse.