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The Popular Automotive Executive Talks Everything From New Hires To The Future Of Design

Ralph Gilles

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.

Written by Manoli Katakis

Muscle Cars & Trucks was founded by Manoli Katakis - an automotive media veteran that has been covering the latest car news since 2009. His journalism has uncovered dozens of major product changes, updates, plans, and cancellations long before automakers were ready to make things official.

Some highlights over the years of his reporting include the uncovering of the Zora trademark before anybody else reported on the coming of a mid-engine Corvette, as well as the dead-accurate reporting of the coming of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, two years before it hit the market, and even before the debut of the concept vehicle. This type of reporting has immediately continued here, with reports of the original seventh-generation Camaro plans being shelved, as well as what's in store for the Chevrolet Silverado.

Some of his work can be found on massive automotive media outlets, such as Motor1. He also has been a guest on the 910AM Radio Station with Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne, as well as the enthusiast-oriented Camaro Show podcast.

Over the years, Manoli has interviewed various automotive industry titans, leaders, and people that make things happen otherwise. These include figureheads such as GM CEO Mary Barra, GM President Mark Reuss, automotive aftermarket icon Ken Lingenfelter, Dodge firebrand Tim Kuniskis, along with various chief engineers of vehicles such as the Ford F-150 & Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro & Corvette, and many more.

At MC&T, Manoli is taking his journalism expertise, deeply planted sources, driving abilities, and automotive industry knowledge to new levels, covering more vehicles and brands than ever before. This is the place where you will continue to read groundbreaking stories about American performance vehicles, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. Here is where you’ll also read insights and quotes from various automotive subject matter experts on the latest relevant products, as well as some of the latest official news from their manufacturers.

Fun facts: he also once beat Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner in an autocross with a Chevrolet Bolt EV. The biggest vehicle he’s ever driven is a John Deere mining truck. Besides a go-kart, the smallest vehicle he’s driven has been a Hyundai i10. He’s also spent time in the cockpit of various American performance vehicle icons, including the fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Dodge Challenger Demon, and Ford Mustang GT350R. He has reviewed dozens of trucks, SUVs, and performance vehicles over the years.

One of his favorite new vehicles on the market today happens to be the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. He is also a card carrying member of the Sports Car Club of America, and regularly participates in Detroit Region autocross events.

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