Former SRT CEO Ralph Gilles Talks About Performance Arm Being Axed by Stellantis

It has been a difficult week for performance enthusiasts across the world, with SRT, the American performance division that gave us icons such as the Viper and the current Hellcat family (over 50,000 Hellcats built since 2014), having been dissolved by Stellantis. An official company statement assired us the velocity know-how of the engineering team will be redistributed among the group's brands (after all, there are over a dozen of them). Now, former CEO and current Fiat Chrysler design boss Ralph Gilles has taken to social media to deliver further clarification on the matter.
Ralph Gilles unveiling the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show 1 photo
Photo: Stellantis
Gilles, who is known for his active presence on social media and was responsible for the styling of the final Gen V Viper, among others, added his thoughts to the said company statement in an Instagram post released about one hour ago, which will undoubtedly be of interest to many enthusiasts.

Once again, we are being told that the performance DNA of the Street and Racing Technology label will be found in future models: "I will add [to the official statement] that we will keep imagining, developing new and compelling products worthy of the SRT badge for years to come,"

The executive goes on to explain the inner workings of the new organization chart: "By being integrated into the core teams, the passionate and brilliant engineers behind the current SRT products will certainly influence the performance aspects of a broader spectrum of products,"

And, to reinforce the idea that the lack of an SRT badge doesn't have to define a go-fast model, Gilles mentions the recent Hellcat-motivated Ram 1500 TRX and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, with its 6.4-liter HEMI.

"[The said models] were a result of RAM and Jeep calling on those very [SRT] team members to help and work with the core teams... to great results."

Earlier this month, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis, who had taken control of SRT when Gilles was tasked with leading FCA's design efforts back in 2015, pointed out that the ever-stricter emission regulations are killing the eight-cylinder engine.

In an interview with CNBC, Kuniskis described the current muscle car bonanza as the new golden age of the genre, albeit while drawing a parallel between the end of the original golden age and the present situation.

"1972 was the beginning of the end of the golden age of muscle cars. They went away for fuel economy, for the oil crisis. They went away for safety. They went away for insurance, and they went away for increasing emission standards. It's kind of crazy to think about we're getting close to a similar list of things right now," the Dodge helm man explained.

The CEO confirmed that Dodge would electrify its future models, which was to be expected given that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, who had shown an inertia regarding electric mobility, first started introducing serious plans on the matter in 2018.

Kuniskis went on to mention the benefits of electrification in the said interview: "I'm super excited about the future of electric because I think it's what's going to allow us not to fall off the cliff. Without that technology, without electrification, this is 1972 right now, and this thing is going to end,"

The roots can be traced back to the Team Viper crew who brewed the original Viper in 1989. They joined forces with Team Prowler, becoming Specialty Vehicle Engineering, which, in turn, got rebranded as Performance Vehicle Operations during the Daimler-Chrysler era (from 2002). Two years later, it reached its SRT form, with FCA elevating the skunkworks division to the rank of a performance brand in 2011, placing Gilles in command. However, it's worth mentioning that the label was once again turned into a performance division in 2014, albeit with the three letters and the team behind it remaining in place.

Stellantis, now the world's fifth-largest automaker by sales volume, was formally established on January 16 this year through the 50-50 merger of Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The new company brings together Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram Trucks, and Vauxhall Motors.

Some of the said brands are more successful than others, and while various unofficial reports talked about the possibility of Chrysler or Lancia getting the axe in the wake of the merger, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares told Automotive News Europe last month that every brand will be given the opportunity to thrive.

Meanwhile, Gilles, who occasionally can be seen taking part in various track day events, has already updated his car collection to include another one of the small performance cars that the European side of Stellantis can take pride in. As we wrote last month, a Peugeot 205 GTi that's currently being restored has joined his Viper ACR Extreme, as well as his classic Alfa Romeos and 1991 Lancia Delta Integrale.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram Twitter

Editor's note: Main image shows Ralph Gilles unveiling the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show

About the author: Andrei Tutu
Andrei Tutu profile photo

In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories