Dodge Brand CEO and Chrysler Chief Designer Ralph Gilles thinks Chrysler needs to be more like Apple. That sounds like a great idea given how dated most of the car company’s products are at this point.
Speaking to the Economic Club of Chicago at their annual Chicago Auto Show luncheon yesterday, Gilles said that Apple CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs is his hero and that Chrysler should try to be more like Apple and return to its roots in building innovative new vehicles. While getting back to the strategies that helped them invent the minivan and other notable segment-busters, Gilles said that Chrysler must avoid building more one-hit wonders like the Pacifica.
“The problem is that every one of those vehicles were one-hit wonders,” said Gilles. “We can’t do that anymore. The philosophy at Chrysler is to do every vehicle that way. Branded design is everything — separating into four distinct brands. We’ve had too much overlap, too many products that were alike.”
Speaking more specifically about product, Gilles said that the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee is due out in three months time and that the little Fiat 500, the first Fiat vehicle to make it to the U.S. through Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler last year, will go on sale by the end of this year. Gilles also announced that the next-generation Chrysler 300 sedan will arrive by December.
“Hopefully, when you see that car, grown men and women will have tears running from their eyes,” Gilles said of the 300. “Hopefully, when you see that, you will say, ‘Go, America.’”
Gilles filled in as guest speaker at the luncheon at the last minute after the scheduled speaker, his boss and Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, was called away to sign a joint-venture agreement to produce vehicles in Russia.