I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with the team of Ralph and Doris Gilles during the 2021 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.
Ralph Gilles is a Canadian-American automobile designer and executive. Gilles was the President and CEO of Chrysler's SRT brand and Senior Vice President of Design at Chrysler before being promoted to Head of Design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in April 2015. Following FCA's merger into the Stellantis group in 2021, he became chief design officer for the newly merged company.
Doris Gilles manages Ralph as he attests to in the video interview below.
How it Started, How it's going
Growing up in the ugly 70's in Montreal Ralph Gilles was caught up in the car bug first by attending Formula One races, which led to building plastic models and then discovering that he had some talent for drawing cars.
Ralph was auto-crossing Volkswagen Corrado's when he started his design career at Chrysler which is where he met his met his wife Doris as the result of an Eagle Talon.
Doris and Ralph both started at Chrysler right out of college. Doris started going to auto events with Ralph, instead of being home alone on weekends, and found herself doing timing and scoring and then organizing and doing much of the planning for events. As was said above, Doris manages Ralph and they are very much a team.
Doris and Ralph talk how they both have spent the last few decades around cars, racing and concours events, which should give you so nice insight and perspective into what has influenced the current head of design at Stellantis.
Ralph talks about the "Passion points" of the new electric design including the opportunities of having so much room to design without the hinderance of an fuel powered engine taking up so much space. He goes into some detail about how sound is going to be so important at the advent of this new electric era.
According to Ralph, "Every other time you to talk to a car guy they talk about the sound of the engine, the feeling, the guttural thing a car has. How do we bring some of that? We're employing sound designers and talking to agencies that work for the movie industry... So there are things we can do as designers to influence the experience. Driving an electric car without any of those things would be antiseptic. Then the whole relationship with you and car is over with, it's just a device. So how do we make an electric car touch your soul, tickle your heartstrings, make you smile when you drive it rear you with "wow I put effort into it" and the car speaks back to me"
Ralph explains some of his design team influences and how he sends them out to Concours and Auto events to learn from the iconic designs of the past so they can integrate them into current design.
"Lets look at cars 3 to 4 times our cost point. Let's look at the best vintage cars that tug our souls. That's what we did." ~ Ralph Gilles, Chief design Officer, Stellantis
Check out the video below!
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