For the second time in as many weeks, media mogul Oprah Winfrey has denied rumors that she is next in line for the CEO position at automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA. Current CEO Sergio Marchionne had previously hinted that she was among the frontrunners to take over his spot, in addition to former auto executive Bob Lutz, standup comedian and monologist Mike Birbiglia, and a rusty paperclip.
“We take the succession plan very seriously at FCA,” Marchionne said in a statement late Wednesday. “The organization, she cannot survive if executives do not have trusted henchmen and henchwomen to follow in their shoesteps.”
Oprah Winfrey’s career spans nearly four decades, including acting, television hosting, magazine publishing, and countless philanthropic endeavors. However, the trait most appealing to FCA is her ability to give away cars for free.
“She really knows how to move products at all costs,” Marchionne continued. “At FCA, the rest is just details and can be learned on the job.”
The comments come amid longstanding financial difficulties at FCA, in addition to the carmaker’s position at – or near – the bottom of most reliability and quality lists. Those black marks tend to hurt short-term sales, as well as long-term reputation and residual values. That ripple effect can hamper a company’s turnaround efforts for decades to come, regardless of whether they participate in a complex Diesel emissions cheating scheme.
Marchionne and company leadership also emphasize the need to find an industry outsider to take the reins in the hopes that a fresh perspective can reinvigorate the organization and its products. “We believe that her diverse experience will bring us what we need. For as example, she publishes a magazine that I like to read. I sometimes read it while I take dump. I also created the Dodge Dart. The connection is uncanny.”
In an attempt to further woo Ms. Winfrey to the job, FCA announced Thursday morning it would gift her with a one-off special edition of its 800 horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, dubbed The Color Purple. Within minutes, the move was met with a firestorm of criticism from the NAACP, NHTSA, MOPAR, and FCA’s own head of design, Ralph Gilles, who declared – with complete impunity – that Marchionne was “Full of sh*t.”