(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Autoworkers Shocked At Sergio Marchionne's Death: 'He Saved Our Jobs'

July 25, 2018 - 8:25 am

WARREN (WWJ) - Chrysler workers are giving praise and paying respects following the sudden death of former CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The holding company of Italian automaker Fiat's founders, the Agnelli family, announced Wednesday morning that Marchionne had died after complications from surgery in Zurich. He was 66.

The news was shocking to those showing up early to work the assembly line at Chrysler's Warren Stamping plant.

John Kaminski, who has been with the automaker for over 25 years, said Marchionne saved countless jobs.

"He was the guy that brought it back from the end," Kaminski told WWJ's Charlie Langton. "Most people just wanted us to die and go away and he saw there was value in keeping the company."

Paul Demaster echoed that statement, saying he owes the last decade to Marchionne.

"He saved my job. I thank him every day. He saved our jobs, all of us," Demaster said. 

Marchionne abruptly stepped down and was replaced as CEO just days ago after the company said his condition, following shoulder surgery,  took a turn for the worse.  Marchionne engineered two long-shot corporate turnarounds to save both Fiat and Chrysler from near-certain failure.

Many veteran workers share the same thought: If it weren't for Marchionne, Chrysler wouldn't be a brand today. 

"After a lot of things that we've been through, I believe that he was a great man that pulled us out of a big hole," said Bob, of Flat Rock, who spent the last 25 years with the company. 

Mike Beck, who drives new cars off the line, said Marchionne was simply a visionary.

"If it wasn't for him, Chrysler probably would have been down and went defunct. But he has changed the company, the face of the company, and really for the looks of the cars -- because they're really great, especially those Dodge trucks," Beck said.

Others, like Orlando Ramsey, said Marchionne left a lasting legacy on the auto industry.

"(He'll be remembered) as one of the great guys like Iacocca, who put Chrysler back on the map, made Chrysler more profitable, who did real good to Chrysler," Ramsey said.

Many also expressed regret that Marchionne never got a chance to enjoy his life after work, especially considering all that he accomplished. 

"It's a shame that a guy who put so much effort into this company didn't have the time to enjoy his retirement life when it's all done," said Ralph, of Marine City.

Those in the auto industry were just as shocked to hear of Marchionne's death, reportedly from cartiac arrest. 

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford offered prayers to the family in a statement, saying Marchionne was "one of the most respected leaders in the industry whose creativity and bold determination helped to restore Chrysler to financial health and grow Fiat Chrysler into a profitable global automaker. His extraordinary leadership, candor and passion for the industry will be missed by everyone who knew him."

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra issued a similar statement, offering thoughts to workers at Fiat Chrysler dealing with the sudden loss.

"Sergio created a remarkable legacy in the automotive industry," she said.