Ferrari Chairman Montezemolo Quits Over Clashes With Marchionne

Sep 10, 2014 01:30 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

Chairman of Italian luxury sports car maker Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, is quitting to be replaced by the boss of parent group Fiat after the two argued over strategy and the Formula One team's poor results.

Montezemolo, who is one of the most recognizable businessmen in Italy, will leave on Oct. 13, the same day the newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is due to be listed in New York, according to Reuters.

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne hopes the "allure" of Ferrari will drive U.S. investor interest in the new company for now. In the future, the question is whether the 62-year-old can maintain the cachet of the Ferrari brand.

Ferrari has kept a tight lid on volumes so far, limiting production to 7,000 cars per year, to try preserving the exclusivity of its vehicles. Marchionne said during a news conference Wednesday that this number could increase "gradually" however.

Under Montezemolo, who has been chairman since 1991, Ferrari raced to the top of the Formula One world. Ferrari victories on the racetrack helped increase revenues tenfold and tripled sales volumes.

Montezemolo's relationship with Marchionne had soured the last couple of years however, because of disagreements over the role of the luxury sports car business within the Fiat group, people with knowledge of the situation said to Reuters.

While Marchionne has pushed to integrate the business within Fiat to boost the group's move into the premium end of the car market to compete against BMW and Volkswagen, Montezemolo pleaded to keep Ferrari autonomous.

Montezemolo, who is expected to become chairman of airline Alitalia, discussed the future of Ferrari at length this weekend with Marchionne.

"Our mutual desire to see Ferrari achieve its true potential on the (Formula One racing) track has led to misunderstandings, which became clearly visible over the last weekend," Marchionne said, according to Reuters.

Ferrari failed to have a driver in the top three at an Italian Grand Prix last weekend for the first time since 2008.

Ferrari has not won a drivers' or constructors' title since 2008. Marchionne called the team's performance as of late "unacceptable" on Sunday, according to Reuters.

"Today I am leaving serene and proud. There is no doubt that a new phase begins for both Ferrari and the whole group," Montezemolo said during a joint news conference with Marchionne on Wednesday at Ferrari's headquarters in Maranello.

Marchionne has been running Fiat since 2004 and revived its fortunes through the tie-up with Chrysler. He is now hoping Ferrari will attract U.S. investors when the group debuts on Wall Street.

Ferrari made a record 2.34 billion euros in revenue last year. Fiat owns 90 percent of Ferrari, with the remaining 10 percent held by Piero Ferrari, the group's vice chairman and son of the automaker's founder Enzo Ferrari.

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