He enjoyed jousting with analysts on earnings calls and would mix it up with reporters at car shows like a sort of cheerfully disheveled, bespectacled, prosperous philosophy king with jaded macro-economic view of the world, but he rarely granted one-on-one interviews. To the end, he referred to FCA and Ferrari, in the charmingly antiquated language of aristocratic commerce, as “houses.” He had an MBA, but he never talked like a bureaucrat.

He’s now left both houses in monumentally better shape than they were before he arrived on the scene. When Marchionne’s condition declined, John Elkann — scion of the Fiat-founding Agnelli family and FCA’s chairman — wrote in a statement to FCA employees that it was “a situation that was unthinkable until a few hours ago, and one that leaves us all with a real sense of injustice.”

For the rest of the industry, Marchionne’s death leaves us without a true original and a leader who always sought to balance opportunistic optimism and flinty realism, hard work and humor, the world of business and the realms of life.