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Mike Manley, top executive at Stellantis, steps down to take CEO job at dealership group

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The man who is Stellantis' head of Americas is leaving to join the nation's largest dealership group, AutoNation Inc. 

Mike Manley, who has served as head of Americas for Stellantis since January, will start with AutoNation as its CEO and member of its board on Nov. 1. That's when AutoNation's longtime CEO Mike Jackson, 72, will retire. 

"We're ecstatic at AutoNation," Marc Cannon, AutoNation's spokesman, told the Free Press. "It's a fabulous hire. He's a proven leader. He understands our business. He's following a legend in Mike Jackson, but having known Mike Manley and knowing his work over the past 20 years, it's a great day at AutoNation."

Stellantis, the company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the French PSA Group in January, said its COO of North America Mark Stewart and COO of Latin America Antonio Filosa will replace Manley and report directly to CEO Carlos Tavares.

"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," Tavares said in a statement. "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."

Tavares said he is "personally sorry to no longer have Mike as a colleague," but happy for Manley in his new CEO role and, "glad that he will be joining the Board of the Stellantis Foundation."

Manley, 57, joined the company in 2000 when it was DaimlerChrysler. He started there as director of network development in the United Kingdom. Over the years, he's held a variety of leadership roles including head of Jeep and then of Ram brand. From July 2018 to this January he was CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Manley took the reins at FCA in 2018 after Sergio Marchionne, the man credited with saving both Chrysler and Fiat, was unexpectedly sidelined by failing health. After Marchionne's death, Manley was formally named CEO.

Manley was one of Marchionne's closest executives and was said to mirror his hard-working approach. Manley had long been considered a possible successor to his boss, but Marchionne's health crisis thrust him into the top role at the company sooner than expected. Manley's roles leading Jeep and Ram put him at the top of the company's most important and profitable brands, which were regularly at the center of speculation as possible candidates to be spun off or sold.

During Manley's tenure, FCA continued the growth and rebound that Marchionne had started. Manley was in charge in 2019 when the company announced its $4.5 billion investment in southeast Michigan that led to the building of the first new vehicle assembly plant in Detroit — the former Mack engine complex — in 30 years. 

FCA's position, however, as an independent company was always considered questionable because of an evolving industry that appeared to favor consolidation, something that Marchionne had long preached and pursued. Speculation about potential auto partners was a regular feature during Manley's tenure as it had been with Marchionne's. The merger with Peugeot maker PSA Group earlier this year was less a surprise than resolution of a long-held goal.

As the outlines of what would become Stellantis took shape in the months before the merger, questions swirled about what Manley's role in the future company might be as Tavares, who had led PSA Group, was picked as CEO. A company CEO rarely would take a lesser role in a new company following a merger, even one as key as head of the Americas, but company leaders had gone to great lengths to highlight the friendship that existed between Manley and Tavares, who often made a point of thanking Manley and team during public comments.

"The time feels right for me to open a new chapter," Manley said in a statement. "Working with Carlos to create this extraordinary company, with the constant support of our shareholders, has been a huge privilege both professionally and personally. I am very honored to have been asked to join the Stellantis Foundation Board."

Cannon declined to discuss what AutoNation hopes Manley will bring to the company, saying that Jackson will go over that during AutoNation's earnings announcement in mid-to-late October. 

Jackson served as AutoNation's CEO for 22 years, Cannon said. At the end of 2019, he stepped down as CEO and remained on as executive chairman. At that time, longtime AutoNation executive Cheryl Miller took over as CEO, but she resigned in July  2020 after a medical leave and Jackson resumed the position of CEO.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, based AutoNation owns 330 dealership across the United States with a dozen Chrysler stores, Cannon said. AutoNation does not have any stores in Michigan, but does have three Ford stores in Ohio. 

"There's a great feeling here" about Manley joining AutoNation, Cannon said. "Especially having somebody who knows our business and knows us."

Manley holds a Master of Business Administration from Ashridge Management College in Ashridge, England, and a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Southbank University in London.

Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Read more on General Motors and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.

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