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AW Design Forum: Ralph Gilles talks technology - with style

Thu, 14 Jan 2010

Chrysler Group is known for its rough and tough trucks and menacing muscle cars, but its design boss said technology is going to be the game-changer for car designers going forward.

Ralph Gilles, who is also CEO of the Dodge brand, said cars must be able to adapt to evolving technologies while remaining striking and pleasing to the eye. Smartphones, touch screens and colorful interfaces are all becoming common inside cars.

“Technology is going to be the trump card--absolutely, without question . . . making the active interface the reason people buy a car in the future,” Gilles said in the keynote address at the AW Design Forum on Thursday in Detroit.

Still, Dodge isn't going soft, Gilles assured the crowd. And he offered a glimpse of what the next Charger could look like with imposing lines and strong sheetmetal.

Like other designers who spoke at the event, Gilles said the state of styling in many areas has grown staid.

“I challenge the design community to dig deep and really try to freak each other out a bit,” he said.

But Gilles admitted that design could be lessening in importance as younger buyers place more value on tech-savvy features; he said only five percent of the Millennial generation cares about styling.

He said he also expects car design to change in the next decade as designers adapt to hybrids and electric cars, which require smaller or no combustion engines. He said he's also excited that some cars appear to be getting more active styling, pointing to the GMC Granite, the Mazda2 and the Hyundai Blue-Will as cars that stood out to him on the show floor.

By Greg Migliore