Sergio Marchionne will remain chief executive at carmakers Fiat and Chrysler until at least 2015, when the merger of the two companies will be completed and the initial public offering of the new group finalised.
The Italian manager told the Detroit Free Press that his successor will come from inside the company, but added: "Nothing is going to happen until after 2015, unless I get hit by a bus."
"We designed an organisation that has two objectives. One is to breed my successor, and secondly, one that will survive me," the 58-year-old said.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Marchionne added that he doesn’t want to make the same mistake as fellow family-controlled automaker Ford, which in his opinion left too much space for speculation on who is going to succeed its chief executive, Alan Mulally.
“This speculation is nonsense," he said. "We need to keep people focused on running the business. I love Alan. I think he has done a phenomenal job, but there is going to be a point in time Alan will want to hang up the gloves. You need to be able to provide the clarity," he added.
In the next three years, Marchionne, who has the backing of Fiat's founding Agnelli family and, in particular, fifth-generation chairman John Elkann, will have to make a number of very important decisions.
These include where to locate the group’s official headquarters – whether in Italy or the US – and organising the launch of several new models of cars and trucks.
In 2009, Fiat, which is controlled by the Agnellis through their investment group Exor, was given a 20% stake in Chrysler by the US government, in exchange for a commitment to reorganise the struggling company. Since then, Fiat has increased its stake to 58.5%.