Marchionne captivated the global auto industry over the last decade with his candid assessments, tireless competitive spirit, remarkable transparency and multiple roles: chairman and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, chairman and CEO of Ferrari, chairman of Maserati, and chairman of CNH Industrial, a European producer of trucks, buses, tractors and construction vehicles.
Marchionne had reportedly been suffering from chronic pain in his shoulder caused by an invasive sarcoma - a form of cancer that develops in the body's soft tissue - and suffered an embolism during surgery.
On Saturday, FCA named Jeep division head Mike Manley as chief executive at the world's seventh-largest carmaker, saying the 54-year-old Briton would execute a new mid-term strategy that Marchionne had outlined in June.
In a statement issued on Wednesday Elkann, the grandson of former Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, said: "Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone". Around 80 percent of FCA's second-quarter profit came from the US market and the automaker said its North American pre-tax adjusted margin should hit 10 percent in the second half of the year.
Manley said "very, very cost conscious" Chinese consumers sat on the sidelines during the second quarter waiting for prices to come down.
"The biggest challenges we face and frankly we're going to continue to face. are all focused in China", Manley said.
A colourful and charismatic fellow, Marchionne was one of the most respected chiefs in the auto industry, having turned around Fiat's waning automotive fortunes. At the time, the company had been on the brink of bankruptcy.
"We received the news this morning that Sergio had passed away", Manley stated at the beginning of the conference call, "and clearly, this is a very sad and hard time, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Sergio's family, friends and colleagues".
"What struck me about Sergio from the very beginning, when we met to talk about the possibility of him coming to work for the Group, even more than his management skills and unusual intelligence, were his human qualities, his generosity and the way he understood people", said Elkann. Fiat Chrysler obtained 100 percent ownership of Chrysler in 2014; two years later, it spun off its Ferrari brand. In doing so, Marchionne helped FCA pay off its debts.
FCA recorded a record profit of €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion) in NAFTA based on strong sales of Wrangler and Cherokee SUVs and the new Ram light-duty pickup.
"Marchionne wrote an important page in the history of Italian industry". That included getting GM to pay $2 billion to sever ties with Fiat, key to relaunching the long-struggling Italian carmaker, and the deal with the US government to take Chrysler without a penny down in exchange for Fiat's small-car technology.
Marchionne's track record with operational turnarounds was a little more patchy than his dealmaking. More recently, it began selling Alfa Romeo cars in the North American market again.
In the end, Marchionne won the battle.