The man who is president of Stellantis for the Americas is leaving to join the largest dealership group in the country, AutoNation Inc.
Mike Manley, who has served as Stellantis’ Americas president since January, will start with AutoNation as its CEO and member of its board of directors on November 1. That’s when Mike Jackson, AutoNation’s longtime CEO, retires.
“We’re thrilled at AutoNation,” Mark Cannon, a spokesperson for AutoNation, told the Free Press. “It’s a great hire. He’s a proven leader. He understands our business. He’s following a legend in Mike Jackson, but having come to know Mike Manley and know his business over the past 20 years, it’s a great day at AutoNation.”
Stellantis, the company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and France’s PSA group in January, said North America COO Mark Stewart and Latin America COO Antonio Vilosa will replace Manley and report directly to CEO Carlos Tavares.
“It has been an honor to know Mike first as a competitor, then as a partner and co-creator of Stellantis, but most importantly, always as a friend,” Tavares said in a statement. “Since the early days of our discussions, we have truly shared a common vision, belief and commitment, and on these solid foundations, built over the past several years, Stellantis has achieved its impressive early results.”
Tavares said he’s “personally sorry that Mike is no longer his co-owner,” but is happy for Manley in his new role as CEO, and “happy that he will be joining the Stellantis Foundation board.”
Manley, 57, joined the company in 2000 when it was DaimlerChrysler. He started there as a Network Development Manager in the UK. Over the years, he held a variety of leadership roles including Head of Jeep and then Head of the Ram Brand. From July 2018 to January this year, he was CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Manley took the helm at the FCA in 2018 after Sergio Marchionne, the man credited with saving both Chrysler and Fiat, was unexpectedly sidelined due to his declining health. After Marchionne’s death, Manley was officially appointed CEO.
Manley was one of Marchionne’s closest executives and was said to reflect his hard working style. Manley has long been considered a potential successor to his boss, but Marchionne’s health crisis propelled him to the top position in the company sooner than expected. Manley’s roles in leading Jeep and Ram put him at the helm of the company’s most important and profitable brands, which have always been at the center of speculation as potential candidates to be sold or sold.
During Manley’s tenure, the FCA continued the growth and recovery that Marchionne had initiated. Manley was in charge in 2019 when the company announced a $4.5 billion investment in southeast Michigan that led to the construction of Detroit’s first new vehicle assembly plant — the former Mack engine complex — in 30 years.
However, FCA’s position, as an independent company, has always been called into question due to an evolving industry that has seemed to favor consolidation, something Marchionne has long advocated and sought. Speculation about potential auto partners was a regular feature during Manley’s tenure as it was with Marchionne. The merger with Peugeot maker PSA Group earlier this year was not so much a surprise as a decision for an elusive goal.
As the outlines of what would become Stellantis crystallized in the months leading up to the merger, questions were raised about Manley’s role in the future company as Tavares, who led PSA Group, was chosen as CEO. The company’s CEO rarely plays a lesser role in a new company after a merger, even if it was a major role as President of the Americas, but the company’s leaders went to great lengths to highlight the friendship that existed between Manley and Tavares, who often made a point of thanking Manley and his team during comments the public.
“The time is right for me to turn a new page,” Manley said in a statement. “Working with Carlos to create this extraordinary company, with the continued 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 Jackson will go through that during AutoNation’s earnings announcement in mid- to late October.
Cannon said Jackson served as CEO of AutoNation for 22 years. At the end of 2019, he resigned as CEO and stayed on as CEO. At the time, longtime AutoNation CEO Sheryl Miller took over as CEO, but resigned in July 2020 after medical leave and Jackson resumed the CEO position.
Cannon said the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based AutoNation company has 330 dealerships across the United States with dozens of Chrysler stores. AutoNation does not have any stores in Michigan, but it does have three Ford stores in Ohio.
“There’s a great feeling here” about Manley joining AutoNation, Cannon said. “Especially having someone who knows our business and knows us.”
Manley holds an MBA from Ashridge School of Management in Ashridge, England, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from South Bank University in London.