Monday, February 15, 2010

Guess Which Brother Plans on Putting Chrysler Back on Track, Again?

As Chrysler struggles to recover from bankruptcy with little new product, many have wondered how the company plans to get back on its feet. If you ask Dodge Brand CEO and Chrysler Chief Designer Ralph Gilles, they'll do it by emulating Apple.

Speaking to the Economic Club of Chicago at their annual Chicago Auto Show luncheon yesterday, Gilles said that Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs is his hero and that Chrysler should try to be more like Apple and return to its roots in building innovative new vehicles. While getting back to the strategies that helped them invent the minivan and other notable segment-busters, Gilles said that Chrysler must avoid building more one-hit wonders like the (discontinued) Pacifica.
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"The problem is that every one of those vehicles were one-hit wonders," said Gilles. "We can't do that anymore. The philosophy at Chrysler is to do every vehicle that way. Branded design is everything -- separating into four distinct brands. We've had too much overlap, too many products that were alike."

Speaking more specifically about product, Gilles said that the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee is due out in three months time and that the little Fiat 500, the first Fiat vehicle to make it to the U.S. through Fiat's acquisition of Chrysler last year, will go on sale by the end of this year. Gilles also announced that the next-generation Chrysler 300 sedan will arrive by December.

"Hopefully, when you see that car, grown men and women will have tears running from their eyes," Gilles said of the 300. "Hopefully, when you see that, you will say, 'Go, America.'"

Gilles filled in as guest speaker at the luncheon at the last minute after the scheduled speaker, his boss and Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, was called away to sign a joint-venture agreement to produce vehicles in Russia.

Source: Automotive News

JeffCars.com's side note: Gilles was appointed to the position of CEO of the Dodge brand last year - after the automaker evolved from bankruptcy. He's assumed all of the responsibilities that come along with running a brand in addition to overseeing the design of all of Chrysler's vehicles. This is a first for a person of color to have key dual roles in the history of the automotive industry. Gilles was responsible for influencing the design of the current-generation 300 and putting the automaker back in the black several years ago. Just wondering: Could Gilles become the first person of color to become the CEO for an automaker?

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