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Fiat Chrysler Australia CEO resigns

A first: Veronica Johns became the first Australian woman to head a major local motor company when she was appointed CEO of Fiat Chrysler Group Australia in May 2013.

Another car boss quits as Veronica Johns exits Fiat Chrysler for personal reasons

Fiat logo29 Oct 2014

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles Australia president and CEO Veronica Johns has resigned from the company for personal reasons, becoming the second boss of a top 10 Australian motor company to quit in 24 hours after the departure of Holden chairman and managing director Gerry Dorizas (see separate story).

Ms Johns is also the second senior executive to depart FCA Australia this week, with corporate affairs director Karla Leach exiting on Tuesday.

Fiat Chrysler has already started the search for a replacement for Ms Johns, who was the first Australian woman to head a major automotive company after replacing Clyde Campbell in May 2013.

Describing Ms Johns' decision as difficult, FCA said in a media statement that she had tendered her resignation in August after resolving that she could not fulfil the CEO role in the capacity it deserves.

Ms Johns started at the company as a personal assistant to the finance director 16 years ago, rising through the ranks to the top.

She oversaw massive growth for the company in her short time at the helm, with the combined FCA brands – Jeep, Chrysler, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Dodge – collectively becoming a top 10 company, ahead of rivals such as Honda and Subaru.

This year alone, Jeep sales are up more than 40 per cent, thanks in part to the innovative, locally developed ‘I bought a Jeep’ marketing campaign.

So far in 2014, FCA has sold more than 30,000 vehicles in Australia, 22,163 of them Jeeps.

Ms Johns said the record growth and brand transformations were credit to the FCA business partners.

“I would like to thank our staff and dealers for their support to both the company and me personally over my career with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles,” she said.

“The massive sales and brand successes that we have achieved over the last four years has been a collaborative effort, and everyone should be proud to have contributed to this significant chapter in the company’s history.”

FCA vice-president and Asia Pacific general manager operations John Kett said Ms. Johns’ tenure as CEO of the Australian business was remarkably successful and that her achievements should be celebrated.

“Ms Johns carved out a highly rewarding career at FCA, commencing with the company as PA to the finance director and finishing as the first Australian female to head an automotive company.

“Under her leadership, FCA became established as Australia’s fastest growing automotive company after giving new life to the iconic Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands while consistently achieving record sales.

“Ms Johns’ leadership transformed FCA into an Aon Hewitt Best Employer for not only highest percentile employee engagement scores but for also delivering outstanding people practices.”

One of Ms Johns last public acts for FCA was to farewell her colleague Karla Leach who resigned and left the company on Monday.

She said Ms Leach was integral to the re-birth of the Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands in Australia, with a string of successful launches.

“She brought great passion and excellent PR results for the company – highlighted by the very successful launch of the Jeep Cherokee in June this year.

“Her determination and endurance made the Bathurst 12 Hour winning Abarth race team a reality earlier this year, with one of the vehicles finishing 18th overall – an amazing experience for both the drivers and the Abarth brand.”

Ms Leach has been replaced by Lucy McLellan, a former BMW Australia product communications manager who joined FCA three years ago, filling a number of roles across corporate affairs, sponsorship, sales and internal communication.

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