Friday, July 27, 2018

In Memoriam: Sergio Marchionne (June 17, 1952 - July 25, 2018)

News broke this morning that the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Sergio Marchionne, had passed away on Wednesday from complications related to shoulder surgery. Marchionne made his last public appearance on June 26 of this year and took medical leave soon after for shoulder surgery in Zürich, Switzerland. The surgery was for an invasive shoulder sarcoma, which he had kept concealed from his colleagues. On July 21, when the severity of his situation worsened, Marchionne was replaced at FCA, Ferrari, SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance) and CNH Industrial. He is survived by his partner, Manuela Battezzato, and his two sons, Alessio and Tyler.

For anyone in the automotive world who isn't already familiar with Marchionne, he was the chairman of Fiat since 2004 and oversaw the acquisition of Chrysler. His blunt and outspoken personality allowed him to turn a dysfunctional Fiat and a bankrupt Chrysler into a successful global giant. Known around the world for his classic wool, black sweaters (much in the way Steve Jobs is known for his black turtlenecks), Marchionne was especially well known in the enthusiast community for bringing us such vehicles as the Charger/Challenger Hellcat and Challenger Demon. Under his guidance, Marchionne also brought us a Hellcat powered Grand Cherokee, and third generation Viper, and various Ferraris, Fiats, and many other successful and amazing vehicles.

Marchionne was always an interesting character. As mentioned, he was always very blunt and outspoken. He was never keen on the idea of autonomous cars or electric cars. When asked if an autonomous Ferrari would ever be a possibility, he said "you'll have to shoot me first!" He also implored people to NOT buy the Fiat 500e electric car as it was built simply to satisfy California regulatory requirements and FCA was losing money on it. Marchionne also reportedly spent a good portion of 2015 on a quest to merge with another large automaker to reduce inefficiencies and lower costs. General Motors was one of the targets of this quest, but that obviously never happened.

It's hard to imagine many other people who would be able to pull off what Marchionne did for the automotive world. His recovery of Fiat, acquisition of Chrysler and the subsequent creation of a global car empire are nothing short of amazing. If there were two faults with him, it was the fact that the man was ruthless and a bit of a workaholic, both of which probably weighed on him towards the end of his tenure. Nonetheless, Marchionne spent 14 years at the helm of Fiat and then FCA, making him one of the longest serving chief executives in the automotive industry.

With Marchionne's passing, one thing is certain: the automotive industry just lost one of its most interesting people.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Test Drive: 2017 Nissan Maxima SV

We arrived at Dulles early in the evening on a Friday. The Emerald Aisle selection was slim pickings, especially if we wanted a car with reasonable cargo space that was not a crossover of some kind. The thought occurred to me to ask for something particular, but I eventually settled on the one car in the line-up I had not driven yet, the loan Nissan Maxima. With its legacy of being the 4-door sports car (4DSC as the marketing mavens at Nissan called it back in the day), the current Maxima has an awful lot of history to live up to, especially considering that the last one I drove back in the early 2000s seriously failed to live up to expectations.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Road Trip: Lake Arrowhead

She's not a fan of photos...
We don't often get to take our pup out of the local area where we live, so every once in a while, we make the effort to find a place to go that is within driving distance and is pet friendly. Last year, we were out in a more rural part of San Diego county, near the Temecula wine country. This year, we decided to try for a weekend in the mountains of San Bernardino County. Lake Arrowhead, one of several lakes nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, was a place that we frequently visited as kids. I have fond memories of various trips with family so it seemed fitting to do a trip there, though this would be a much nicer and much more outdoorsy trip than the ones of my childhood.

This would also be our first long distance drive in the Bolt so we took some extra precautions, charging up the Bolt's battery to full for the first time since we got the car. Google Maps showed our driving distance as about 100 miles with around 6,500 feet of climbing in the last 20 miles. We also spent some time to make sure we knew where the charging locations were along our route in case we needed to top off on the way back. My rough calculations indicated that we had plenty of range on the battery to make it to the top of the mountain, but it never hurts to be prepared. Of course, we needed not have worried as the Bolt performed admirably.