Manley expected to ensure stability at AutoNation

Manley joins AutoNation from his role as head of the Americas for Stellantis, the company formed in January by the merger of FCA and PSA. Manley previously had been CEO of FCA from July 2018, just before the death of the automaker’s longtime leader Sergio Marchionne.

Despite his long stint at the automaker and its predecessors, Manley has auto retail chops, working for 14 years in dealerships in the United Kingdom before being hired in 2000 by DaimlerChrysler.

Retired Chrysler sales chief Gary Dilts, who tapped Manley for a job in the U.S. in 2003, previously told Automotive News that Manley had a “rare balance of retail smarts and financial smarts.” Manley increasingly gained responsibility as he climbed Chrysler’s ranks. He was tasked with leading Jeep in 2009 and later added oversight of the Ram pickup brand.

With AutoNation among FCA’s largest dealers by number of stores, Jackson has known Manley for years. In the mid-2010s, Jackson railed against the stair-step incentive programs the automaker was then known for.

He recalled Manley’s strength at Marchionne’s memorial in September 2018, calling his leadership at that time “extraordinary.” AutoNation’s incoming CEO also knows “what it takes” to sell and service vehicles one at a time, Jackson said.

“He has this wonderful combination of intelligence and expertise but at the same time is a good listener, and he’s very humble,” Jackson said. “He’s driven to succeed, whatever the challenges are. And I think he’s an inspiring leader for AutoNation. I think there’s no question that he will lead this executive team and a company to new heights and new successes.”

Analysts, too, predict that AutoNation may finally have its future leader on its third try.

Industry outsider Carl Liebert, hired in early 2019 as CEO, lasted just four months on the job, with Jackson serving as executive chairman. Former AutoNation CFO Cheryl Miller’s tenure as CEO lasted less than a year. Miller requested medical leave in April 2020 and resigned that July. Jackson, who had filled in at the top during Miller’s leave, again became CEO but announced he would leave the company by April 12, 2022, and AutoNation said it would name his replacement in early 2022.

“I think that the board finally recognized that in order to get a new CEO that was likely to stick, they probably needed to make a clean break,” said Bret Jordan, an analyst with Jefferies.

AutoNation hired Manley on Sept. 9, according to a regulatory filing. He will earn an annual base salary of $1.3 million, per his three-year contract, plus receive a $1.5 million cash sign-on bonus. His compensation also includes numerous stock incentives and other bonus opportunities.

Longtime board director Rick Burdick, who became AutoNation’s chairman in February, will continue as chairman after Manley comes aboard, said Marc Cannon, AutoNation’s chief customer experience officer.

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