After 22 years with Fiat Chrysler, sales chief Reid Bigland said Wednesday he will leave the company in April to pursue other interests. It’s the latest episode in a saga of leadership shakeups that are going on across the industry, especially with the Big Three automakers.
Normally, Bigland’s departure wouldn’t draw too much attention outside the industry, but he notably sued his employer last year. In that whistleblower lawsuit, Bigland claimed FCA withheld 90 percent of his 2018 compensation after he cooperated with a federal probe into the company’s sales practices between 2012 and 2016. Reuters points out that FCA was forced to pay $40 million in September 2019 to resolve the probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The fraudulent practice involved falsely reporting an uninterrupted “streak” of sales growth, when it fact that streak ended in 2013.
For its part, Fiat Chrysler submitted revised sales figures reflecting its new reporting method in July 2016. At that point, the U.S. Justice Department had also been investigating the company’s practices.
As fraught as the working relationship between Bigland and his employer was, FCA did put out a short statement on his departure. While Bigland isn’t set to officially leave until April 3, vice president of U.S. sales operations Jeff Komor will take over as head of U.S. sales effective immediately. CEO Mike Manley commented on Bigland’s departure, “I would like to thank Reid for his years of tireless leadership and many valued contributions to the company. We all wish him every success in his future endeavors.”
Preparing for FCA-Peugeot Group merger
The timing of Bigland’s departure is also notable, as Fiat Chrysler prepares its merger of equals with the French Peugeot Group over the coming months. When it’s complete, the combined entity, based in the Netherlands, will create the world’s fourth-largest automaker. The recent shakeup amidst the recent talks looks like it will help shore up FCA’s end to ensure the merger happens without issue.