Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I don’t have a lot of experience as far as meeting CEO’s of large companies, so it could be they are all impressive figures who are friendly, outgoing, and down-to-earth while still having a certain air of class and confidence about them.

But I kind of doubt it.

Odds alone would be against it.

But I must say that Ralph Gilles, the CEO and President of Dodge, meets all those expectations and more.

Gilles -- whose name is pronounced with a “soft G” as in Georgia and rhymes with shields, but without the “d” on the end -- was in town for our media association luncheon last week.

That would be the Southern Automotive Media Association, a group of journalists, PR folks, manufacturers’ reps, and others in the auto industry based in Miami but with membership extending all over the place, even Ohio. (It’s south of Canada, OK?)

He not only was the centerpiece of the program, introducing more than 40 members and guests in attendance to the Dodge lineup of vehicles for 2011, he also took time to sit with a few of us for an extended question-and-answer session.

During his formal presentation, he delivered his insights on the vehicles with such ease and clarity it was like he was talking directly to each one present. His answers to our questions at the Q&A session earlier were insightful, thoughtful, and directly to the point.

It was a very impressive performance.

Afterward, I made the comment to a fellow member that Gilles was a real up-and-comer in the automotive industry, thinking of his age (40). The member corrected me.

“Considering his position, I’d say he already has arrived,” my friend said.

True enough.

I think you are going to be hearing more in the future from Gilles, the man behind the design of the groundbreaking Chrysler 300 sedan. He would seem to be well on his way to achieving the “rock star” status Bob Lutz reaching among his stops at Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors before his retirement.

That’s assuming the general news media is interested in getting straight information about the auto industry and not just going for the outrageous “sound bite” that they often got from Lutz, who once called global warming a crock of something other than chicken soup.

That may be asking a lot of what passes for investigative meda these days, but it will be their loss if they don’t seek out Gilles when doing stories about the automotive industry.

You can see coverage of both his presentation and his discussion with us at our website,

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