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Rising Chrysler star to redesign minivans, says automaker can't afford 'regular'



MARY CONNELLY | Automotive News
Posted Date: 8/16/04

[size=+0]DETROIT - The young Chrysler group designer who crafted different personalities for the hot new Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum will try the same trick with the company's next-generation minivans.

Ralph Gilles, 34, Chrysler's rising design star, says he will keep functional interiors in the redesigned minivans. But after that, anything is possible.

The Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan will be restyled for the 2007 or 2008 model year, according to industry sources.

The sales success of the 300 sedan has been a wake-up call for the company, Gilles says.

"We cannot afford to do 'regular,' " he says. "America rewards you when you do something with passion and you take a chance."

That philosophy works even with family-hauling minivans, he says.

"You have to protect the one thing that is sacred about the product," Gilles says. "On the minivan, it would be the interior package. The interior package is sacred. Everything else is game."

Look for more differentiation between Dodge and Chrysler minivans. The "entire vehicle will drip of Dodge or drip of Chrysler," he says.

Gilles grew up in Montreal. His last name rhymes with "eel"; the "g" is soft, and the "s" is silent.

He joined Chrysler in 1992 and is the group's director of interior and exterior product design and specialty vehicles. He designed the interiors of the 2002 Jeep Liberty and 2003 Dodge Viper.
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