Chrysler hosts events at Northwestern

Adnan Anwar , Reporter

Northwestern’s campus played host on Wednesday to several events sponsored by Chrysler.

The corporation’s rebirth after the near-collapse of Detroit’s auto industry has been a reassuring symbol of economic recovery in the United States. The day’s main event was a speech by Ralph Gilles, the president and CEO of Street and Racing Technology for Chrysler Group. In his speech, he charted his personal history with Chrysler and the company’s evolution.

Gilles, who is also Chrysler’s senior vice president of product design, said the company has always been under pressure to innovate because of its underdog status within the Big Three American car brands: GM, Ford and Chrysler.

“I want people to buy American cars because they’re better, not because they’re American,” he said.

Gilles, a Canadian born to Haitian parents, said he always loved cars. As a child, he wrote a letter to Chrysler about his dream to become a designer, and they sent him a letter about what qualifications he would need. Gilles’ parents didn’t approve of a career in art and design and wanted him to be a doctor or engineer. After dropping out of engineering school, he decided to finally do what he wanted: car design.

After Gilles’ presentation, audience members received Hot Wheels toy versions of the Dodge Viper. Dodge is a division of Chrysler. Students were then able to speak with representatives from divisions like engineering, sales, finance, marketing, human resources and manufacturing about opportunities for NU students and graduates as interns or employees.

McCormick freshman Ben Webb said he discussed internship opportunities with Chrysler representatives. As a participant in the co-op program, in which McCormick students get real-world work experience while getting their degree, he said he might want to fulfill the requirement at Chrysler, if possible. Webb is a student on the Mini Baja team at NU, where students design and build a miniature race car.

Gilles was one of several representatives from Chrysler. Linda Becker, an NU alumna and external affairs representative for Chrysler, said the rebirth of Chrysler required “changing the DNA” of the company.

“Our success has come with opportunities to bring back robust outreach programs to universities,” Becker said.

Although Chrysler viewed this as an opportunity to teach students about opportunities at Chrysler, Helen Oloroso, director of career development for McCormick, said that another goal was for Chrysler to learn about the many skills and resources that NU students and programs have to offer.

“Many students here are interested in design, especially in McCormick, and that is the core of Chrysler,” Oloroso said.

Another part of Chrysler’s presence on campus today included a selection of new models on display in front of Tech. Cars shown included the Dodge Challenger and the SRT Viper, a race car.

Sam Wallace, a Chicago native and Chrysler representative, asked students to fill out a survey on whether they had a car, what they knew and liked about Chrysler and if they were in the market for a car. In return for filling out this survey, students received a free tote and were entered into a drawing for a $45,000 voucher towards any new Chrysler vehicle.