They are also our made in Italy, the top managers of what the American national economist Peter Drucker once called “the industrial industry” once and for all . Because the car, despite an advanced de-industrialization , remains a driving force for the economy in many countries. And from Italy, no longer central to the Fiat of Sergio Marchionne , continue to start managers who make a fortune abroad. Few at the highest levels for a sector so rich in opportunities, but still another face of the too waving flag of Made in Italy.
Times have changed greatly since the mid-80s when Fiat was about to merge its car business with Ford of Europe . So, they told us once, there were many in Turin who started studying English in anticipation of the entrance of the important American partner. The deal jumped at the last moment , but mastering the language of Skakespeare did well anyway. The change of gear was with the arrival in 2004 of Marchionne, raised in Canada and practically bilingual: when he hires a new manager for his Fiat Chrysler Automobiles , he held the interview in English.
Meeting these and other top managers in international car shows is not always like Forbes tells with some irony , but it is true that they are all part of a real community. Today, at the top of our foreign legion are two: one is Luca de Meo , a career in the Volkswagen group , the other is Daniel Schillaci just hired by Nissan (and snatched from Toyota Europe) to direct sales and marketing worldwide with workplace in Yokohama. If with de Meo in Audi a small Italian community lives together with two designers and a manager – Alessandro Dambrosio at the top of Konzept Design in Monaco,Simona Falcinelli to oversee the “Color and Trim” section of Audi and Giovanni Perosino to the global advertising of the German brand – on top of the Volkswagen group’s design for years (but close to retirement) Walter de Silva, while between London and Cologne Gaetano Thorel is marketing director of Ford Europe. A list that does not end here.
“It seems trivial, but we have to adapt: the first thing is really to learn the language”, says Luca de Meo, 48, Bocconi graduate, spinning top between Belgium, France, Italy, Germany working for Renault, Toyota, the Fiat, the Volkswagen. Still for a few days on the Audi board with responsibility for sales and marketing, de Meo will be head of the Seat brand with work in Barcelona from 1 November. One of the many effects of the Volkswagen scandal for the tampering of emissions tests on some diesel engines, which has turned the top of the German group upside down.
“The most important thing is to understand in depth the country where we are going to work – de Meo tells us again – and to do this we need to know the language well. It is the first rule for those coming from countries that do not dominate the international political scene, which do not have large corporations with their managerial models. The Americans and the British obviously do not have this problem, as the Germans do not have that belong to a country system that still leads them to make a career. In fact they all speak English, but after two minutes they go to their language. And it happens even partially to the French, not always obliged to get back into the game, while we Italians always have to make a leap. But I can say that this desire to enter the new family is much appreciated and makes you different “.
Taste and creativity are the qualities that are often attributed by foreigners to Italian entrepreneurs and managers. Do you agree? “To put it in Latin, our genius loci is to find a simple solution to complex problems . The Germans, for example, love complex solutions for complex problems “. Advice for those who want to go abroad to do business or make a career? “To enter into the cultural economic fabric of the host country. Of course, there is a meta operating system of how business is done in the world, but it is not enough “.
If de Meo promises to study seriously for the next six months the Spaniard, Andrea Formica, 54, international consultant after being among the other number three of Toyota Europe, marketing director of Ford UK, president of Ford Italy and managing director of Fiat sees it differently. “Today should not be like this anymore, but Italian managers have often been recognized as talented, not as reliable”. The perception of the Italian linked to the umbilical cord of his country and his family has also come from the “handicap of not having fully global Italian companies in the car, paying for the fact that the dominant groups are others “. If the American managers know how to be “terribly racist” considering only the English as they are, the French hold to rule in the world with their own men. Advice to those who want to jump? “To make first of all personal choices that are not an obstacle to a career, to create a truly international approach . We must immediately demonstrate value and quality and live this choice as an opportunity, not as a sacrifice “.