Sergio Marchionne, the embattled Fiat Group’s fifth chief executive in two years, has been described as a hard taskmaster who sets tough targets and expects people to meet them.

Sergio Marchionne, the embattled Fiat Group’s fifth chief executive in two years, has been described as a hard taskmaster who sets tough targets and expects people to meet them.


The group on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of so-called “turnaround expert” Marchionne, effectively filling a void created in its upper ranks following the shock resignation of Giuseppe Morchio. The move also boosted Fiat’s shares.


CARtoday.com reported on Tuesday that Marchionne was the chief executive of Swiss testing services firm SGS and a Fiat director. His first move at the helm of Fiat was to immediately pledge to follow through the turnaround plan drawn up by Morchio and the late Umberto Agnelli.


"The plan was approved by the board. We have every intention of completing it," he said, easing concerns that a new chief executive would mean a new plan for the group.


However, Marchionne hinted that he would closely evaluate the managers Morchio brought into the organisation. "I don't know them well enough. We need to start working and see what happens. I know the team we have has good potential, we just need to tap it. I've done this before."


Marchionne gained the experience he referred to at SGS, where he stripped down management to save cash while as chairman of chemicals firm Lonza he was instrumental in the resignation of its chief executive after bad results.


Agnelli family named Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo as chairman to replace the late Umberto Agnelli at the weekend. Fiat’s ruling family also named the most prominent member of the younger generation, John Elkann, as vice-chairman.


Elkann, 28, said the new team would speed up Fiat's recovery plan, which hopes to drag the tractor-to-components group back to operating profit in 2005 and net profit in 2006.


According to , an analyst reportedly described Montezemolo and Marchionne as a "good cop, bad cop" team - Montezemolo trumpeting its new cars and Marchionne keeping to his recipe of "hard work and commitment."


The new team also takes on delicate negotiations with banks, whose R24 billion loan to Fiat comes due next year. Montezemolo reportedly said he had "clear and direct relationships with the banks, which have already said they continue to support the plan."