by Patrick Rall
Recently, the Chrysler Group announced a major management shakeup as Dodge Chief Executive Office Ralph Gilles was removed from his position to clear up time in his schedule to run the newly formed SRT brand. That’s right – the high performance Street and Racing Technology models from Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep are now united under one cross-brand performance unit.
The Dodge brand flourished under Gilles’ reign, becoming a far sportier and more aggressive brand since he took the helm in October of 2009. Gilles joined Chrysler in 1992 and was best known for his design work on the 2005 Chrysler 300 – as well as his interior and exterior design efforts across the entire Chrysler Group over the past few years.
Gilles’ role atop the Dodge Cars brand has been filled by Reid Bigland, who currently serves as the President and CEO of Chrysler Canada. Gilles will continue serving as the Senior Vice President of Design for the Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands while also overseeing all Chrysler motorsports programs and running the new SRT brand.
While some automakers are making an effort to trim the number of brands in their group, Chrysler seems more than happy to help that number expand. In addition to the reintroduction of the Fiat brand in North America, Chrysler also spun the Ram and Dakota off into the Ram Truck Brand – now followed by the new SRT brand. Chrysler hasn’t offered any plans for the new SRT brand but with the performance-oriented Gilles at the helm, we can expect that the folks working for the SRT brand can spend more time on high performance and less time on crap that no one cares about, like fuel economy, or how well vehicles will sell in foreign markets.
The current vehicles included in the SRT brand are the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8, the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 and the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 but there have been gobs of rumors about an upcoming SRT version of the sporty new Dodge Durango. Also, Ralph Gilles explained to me at the 2010 LA Auto Show that the next generation Dodge Viper will hit the streets in the spring or summer of 2012 as a 2013 model. As the flagship model of both the Dodge and SRT brands, the 2013 Dodge Viper is expected to feature technology like stability control systems that will make this supercar more driver-friendly. We can also expect the next Viper to pack more power and outperform any of the Vipers that came before the 2013 models.
Finally, Ram enthusiasts have been calling for a performance version of the popular Ram 1500 and with the SRT lineup featuring a Ram truck in the past – perhaps Gilles new group will have time to either work the 392 Hemi into a Ram or even work the powerplant from the next generation Viper into the sporty pickup.