Fiat Chrysler lead designer Ralph Gilles first garnered recognition after he worked on the design team for the wildly successful 2005 Chrysler 300. Since then he’s held numerous high-ranking positions within FCA, including president of design for Dodge, CEO of Dodge and CEO of SRT, among others.
Gilles, who was born in New York but then later moved to Montreal, Canada with his family, recently sat down with Canada’s Driving.ca to discuss what inspired him in the world of automotive design, what cars he currently has in his garage and exciting new designs that are in the FCA woodwork.
Gilles noted the Porsche 928 is what first inspired him to get into automotive design. He says the car’s progressive, futuristic design and wedge-like shape caught his eye and helped ignite the burning passion for cars that he now holds today.
“As a designer, I love how (the 928) was ahead of its time,” Gilles said. “It was the first car with true pop-up headlights, fascias instead of bumpers, extremely aerodynamic shape, aluminum doors, flowthrough cockpit. I forget the name of the designer, but it was really ahead of its time. It didn’t so much inspire my designing, but the ‘idea of designing’ and how one car could look so different from another. Back then, the ’70s was a pretty tough time for car design. I had models of it, a telephone of it. I was obsessed with that car.”
Some of Gilles’ favorite designs at FCA right now are Alfa Romeos that we unfortunately have not seen. He said that one of the hardest parts about automotive design is not being able to talk about some of your favorite pieces of work until (or if) they debut, especially since FCA remains more tight-lipped than most automakers.
“The Alfas that we’re doing right now are beautiful,” Gilles said. “There are things in the hopper which I can’t talk about, some gorgeous machines. It goes back again to one day being a kid when those vehicles are posters on your wall to now, having a part in making them come true – I pinch myself every day.
That’s the toughest question for a head of design, what we’re working on next. I don’t want to spill the beans to our competitors but there’s some cool stuff – cool and relevant.”
As for what’s in his garage, well, be prepared to get a little jealous. Gilles has two current-generation Vipers (a GTS and an ACR), an Alfa Romeo GTV Junior, a Ferrari 458 and a Dodge Challenger Hellcat. He says these cars were acquired during “a bit of a spree,” in car shopping last year, but it’s okay, Ralph, we’d do the same if we had the means.
Click here to read the remaining interview between Gilles and Driving.ca.