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Marchionne mixes up metaphors, but never his auxiliary verbs

Jan 14, 2015

The sweater-wearing CEO.
Credit user dgtmedia-simone / wikimedia commons

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne rarely holds a press conference without offering at least one memorable quote.

Actually, let's make that never. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has never given a press conference without making at least one statement that is memorable, or colorful, or shocking, or funny, or all four combined.

I dare the world to prove me wrong.

Here's my favorite from the globe-trotting, black sweater-wearing, Italian-Canadian CEO at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

"There's been incredible rapid progress to come out of the doghouse," Marchionne said, referring to Chrysler's recovery after the bailout.  "I think we are out of the doghouse. Whether we're absolutely free of fleas or not...."  Then, he suddenly switched metaphors.  He does that. "I think we still have some warts."

Eh?  Speak up, Sonny.

We (in the media) are very grateful that Mr. Marchionne shies away from scrums, those free-for-all press conferences where TV, radio and press reporters crowd like a mass of teeming, hungry, toothy fish around our prey.

Scrums are never pleasant events in the best of circumstances, and Mr. Marchionne is what a famous Seinfeld episode termed "a low talker."  So it's impossible for those on the outskirts of the scrum to hear a word he is saying.

Here is the number one rule for a Sergio Marchionne press conference

Do not ask an unclear or ungrammatical question. Here's what happened when one reporter at the 2015 NAIAS press conference did that.

Reporter:  "Are there any circumstances under which the next generation Wrangler will be built in Toledo?"

Marchionne: "Could be made.  Are there any circumstances–"

Reporter, apparently not getting it:  "Are there any circumstances under which this vehicle, the next generation Wrangler, will be–"

Marchionne: "COULD be​–"

Reporter, still not getting it: "Will be built in Toledo."

Marchionne, not willing to let reporter have the final word:  "Could be built in Toledo."

He then went on to answer the correctly phrased question. 

Marchionne says at present, he can't make an economic case for keeping Wrangler production in Toledo.  But he says if the car has to be built somewhere else, Toledo will get another car to build, so there should be no loss of jobs.