Outspoken chief who turned around two car makers dies age 66

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler (FCA) until last weekend, has passed away after complications arising from surgery.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has come to pass. Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone," John Elkann, head of Exor, the holding company for the Agnelli and Elkann families, and largest shareholder in FCA, said in a statement released in the last hour.

"I believe that the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion."

Tributes have also come in from other automakers with Dieter Zetsche, Daimler's CEO, taking to Twitter to say: “The auto industry has lost a real giant. And many of us have lost a very dear friend: Sergio Marchionne.”

Marchionne's health situation seemed grim when we learnt on the weekend that he had been removed from his post as CEO during an emergency meeting of FCA's board.

He has been replaced by Mike Manley, head of the Jeep and RAM brands, as FCA CEO. Louis C. Camilleri, a former tobacco CEO, will take over as head of Ferrari.

Famed for his big personality, outspoken nature, hands-on management style, and, lately, his Steve Jobs-like adherence to his black wool sweater, Marchionne took over the reins of Fiat Auto in 2004, and helped to stop the flow of red ink at the Italian automaker.

He then engineered a tie-up with Chrysler as it worked its way through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in 2009. The two companies officially became one in 2014.

Under his stewardship, the Italian-American automaker has increasingly focussed on the highly profitable Jeep and RAM brands, as well as investing heavily to transform Alfa Romeo into a competitor for German luxury juggernauts.

He is survived by his partner Manuela Battezzato, and his sons Alessio and Tyler.

Full obituary coming soon.