As he rose in the Fiat hierarchy, Maccario had thought of the next step many times, and what life would be like back at home in Italy.
One day he was driving from Tennessee to Duke University in North Carolina, when he received a call asking, “Do you want to be the Italian division’s CEO?” At the time the company had 25 locations worldwide and employed 15,000 people. He had to think for about 20 minutes but ultimately he said, “No.”
He found it difficult to explain to my mentors and management why he didn’t want to accept, as though he might have lacked ambition. “At the time I had young kids, and also knowing what Fiat at the time looked like, my decision was very easy to reach.” My pride would have said, “Wow you should do it.” But in terms of the possibility of managing the company abroad, from what as then a very sclerotic and oppressive top management, it was “a no-brainer.”
What would going back to Italy have been like in your imagination?
Maccario said that returning to Italy would have been “very difficult.” It is different now because there are different CEOs, he said. “The last two CEOs were uplifting and inspiring. But, the previous ones were a bit more difficult, perhaps more knowledgeable on the automotive side, but very command and control oriented.” Every time we presented our budget to Fiat, my boss in Italy would say, “Paolo do not joke.” We used to call the budget presentation and the quarterly review a “mass with a choir” because it was rehearsed, over and over. “You would have the meeting before the pre-meeting. By the time you were presenting the budget, the CEO of Fiat was only ready to shoot holes in what you were presenting. It was not a real discussion. That again all changed later on, “but at the time I stuck to my decision not to go back to Italy.” Given the decision, they finally realized I was serious; they tried to see what else I could be doing,” he added.
But it was not to be.