Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of both Chrysler and its controlling shareholder Fiat SpA, said he hoped to stay on through 2015 and would groom a successor from within the company's ranks.
Marchionne, who orchestrated Fiat's management takeover of the U.S. automaker, has been the architect of Chrysler's revival after a 2009 bankruptcy funded by the Obama administration.
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Some auto industry executives and bankers have privately questioned how long Marchionne could sustain an intense, hands-on management style marked by long workdays and frequent flights between Turin and Detroit.
Speaking at an industry conference on Wednesday, Marchionne said he hoped that a merged Chrysler-Fiat would become one of the industry's largest global competitors.
"It's going to be up to the guy after me, after 2015 hopefully," Marchionne said. "Maybe a year later, I don't know. I'm 59 now. There's going to be a guy after me, that's for sure."
Marchionne's mention of a successor corresponded to a dip in Fiat's share price. The stock was down 1.7 percent at 5.98 euros in late afternoon trading in Europe.
Marchionne also told reporters, in response to a question: "I brought up 2015 as a point of reference. But the last thing we want is speculation about when I'm going to leave. I technically can go beyond 2015."
Separately, Marchionne said that the tone of Chrysler's contract talks with the United Auto Workers union had been "incredibly productive."
He said he was looking for a contract with the union that would keep the smallest U.S. automaker competitive with rivals on labor costs while allowing union workers "to share in the potential wealth."
Chrysler has the lowest average hourly wage costs of any of the three U.S. automakers because it has the highest proportion of workers at a second-tier wage of about $14 per hour, half of the pay for veteran workers.
Chrysler, Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co <GM.N> have signaled a willingness to negotiate some form of profit sharing with the UAW if they can avoid higher fixed costs that hurt the industry during the last downturn.