- Wester will remain chief tecnhology officer at Fiat Chrysler
- Launch of Alfa Romeo Giulia was delayed by several months
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is replacing Harald Wester, one of Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne’s closest aides, as head of the Alfa Romeo and Maserati units, two weeks after the carmaker started sales of the new Giulia luxury sedan following a delay of more than six months.
Reid Bigland, currently head of Fiat Chrysler sales in the U.S., will take over Wester’s role as the German engineer devotes his "full attention to the role of chief technology officer" for the group, Marchionne said in a statement.
The revival of the Alfa Romeo brand, which was originally a crucial part of Marchionne’s strategy to more than double the carmaker’s profit by 2018, was delayed in January when Fiat postponed the completion of Alfa’s models revamp by two years because of weak markets in China and Brazil. The company also dropped a goal to boost sales more than fourfold to 400,000. Maserati, which just started selling its first SUV, temporarily laid off workers at its main plant near Turin in April because of slow demand, according to an Italian labor union.
"The new structure could be a sign of Marchionne’s strong commitment to pursue Alfa and Maserati’s revamp globally," said Vincenzo Longo, a strategist at IG Group in Milan. "Still, it looks like Wester could be a victim of Alfa Romeo delays."
Fiat Chrysler is counting on the Giulia to go head-to head with the likes of the BMW 3-series. Marchionne acknowledged at the presentation of the Giulia on May 10 that the sedan, which will be followed by the brand’s first sport-utility vehicle later this year and by a third model in late 2017, didn’t have an “easy” birth. Sales of the Giulia originally were scheduled to start at the end of 2015 and were delayed for final touches and software calibration issues.
Wester, who started his career at Volkswagen AG and then moved to Audi as program manager, joined Fiat in 2004. He was named head of Maserati in 2008 and Alfa Romeo in 2010.