There aren’t enough automotive executives like Ralph Gilles of FCA. The head of vehicle design for the automaker, Gilles has been known to be found at race tracks, car meets, grassroots events, and is very active on social media. Yet he still finds time to do everything that’s expected out of somebody in his position. A sort of automotive executive of the people, you might say. So when we noticed that he was a guest on the latest episode of Autoline After Hours, we buckled up for an hour and seven minutes, and soaked up everything he had to say about automotive design, both present and future.
The conversation gets substantial right out of the gate, with Gilles stating that the complexion of a designer he looks to hire today is different from that of around ten years ago. For example, video gamers, textile designers and software engineers are all backgrounds of high interest for FCA design. Even IT specialists have found themselves in design positions within the company. Following that, Gilles notes that these hires are not meant to replace the nuts-and-bolts personnel that is currently in place, but rather they’re meant to be additives to what they already have now. Especially when it comes to interior design and the user experience of navigating all of the technology that can be found there – such as the class-leading touchscreen found in the fifth-generation Ram 1500 pickup truck. Ralph Gilles directly credits the interior design of the Ram to its jump in sales.
Ralph Gilles forecasts that the future automotive landscape will not be an enthusiasts dystopia solely consisting of autonomous electric transportation pods, but rather an “amazing platter of choices,” much like today. Except more so.
The insightful conversation carries on for over an hour, and we found it to be worth every minute of our time. Hopefully after watching and listening, you feel the same way.