Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] has promoted its straight-shooting designer—and weekend racer—Ralph Gilles to the role of head of design for the group. At the same time, Gilles has also been appointed a member of FCA’s overarching Group Executive Council, led by CEO and Sergio Marchionne.

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The appointment of Gilles to the head of design at FCA marks an important turning point for the automaker. Previously, the role was filled by Italian designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti, who is now retiring. In his own career, Ramaciotti worked on projects for the likes of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati, and most of his years were actually spent at illustrious design house Pininfarina. Though retired, he will continue to lend his expertise to the group serving as a special advisor to the CEO.

Gilles on the other hand has his roots in North American brands (prior to promotion, he was head of design for FCA US), having been responsible for hits like the gangster-esque 2005 Chrysler 300 and the latest Dodge Viper. He’s also been linked with several official motorsports programs as well as the SRT performance division, which he headed for a while.

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Gilles holds a MBA from Michigan State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. He first joined Chrysler in 1992.

Gilles now has the monumental task of overseeing the designs for numerous models being developed in FCA’s multibillion-dollar five-year strategy. These include the likes of Maserati’s next GranTurismo and new Alfieri-based sports car as well as most of Alfa Romeo’s future lineup. Other key models will include a new Jeep Wagoneer, next-generation Grand Cherokee and a replacements for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger/Challenger.


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