Harald Wester has been replaced as CEO of Maserati and Alfa Romeo just days after Alfa Romeo launched its most important new model in a decade, the Giulia.
Reid Bigland, head of Fiat Chrysler’s US sales division and boss of its Canadian division, takes over from Mr Wester, effective immediately.
Mr Wester, 58, will continue as Chief Technical Officer for the Fiat Chrysler group.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the struggling Italian brand which launched its long awaited Giulia sedan in Europe this month.
Alfa Romeo is a key part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s strategy to double the group’s profits by 2018. This plan was delayed further in January when FCA postponed Alfa’s range revamp schedule by two years and reduced a product investment commitment made in 2014.
The Giulia, Alfa Romeo’s rival for the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-class and others in the popular and lucrative premium compact market, is the first product of that Euro 5 billion investment. The Alfa Romeo Giulia also debuts a flexible architecture, or platform, that is expected to underpin two new SUVs integral to Alfa Romeo’s North American relaunch plans.
Maserati, too, had a launch of some significance in recent months, entering the equally lucrative SUV market for the first time with the Levante. Maserati’s global sales dropped 13 percent in 2015, its operating profit down by almost two-thirds.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Marchionne thanked Mr Wester “for establishing a sound technical framework” for Alfa Romeo and Maserati. He said the focus must now shift to sales.
“It is time now for our efforts to be directed towards the global commercial expansion of these two brands, and I can think of no one better than Reid to fulfil that mission. Reid has an extraordinary record of growing sales and market share in the US and Canada over the last seven years at FCA.”
Harald Wester was named CEO of Maserati in 2008 and Alfa Romeo in 2010.