Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra Interior
Dennis Burke is GM's full-size truck interior design director. Before taking on the challenge of redesigning GM's full-size truck interiors, he worked on numerous concept- and production-vehicle exteriors.
TT: What were your vision and objectives going into this project?
DB: To vastly improve every aspect of interior quality: fits, materials, gloss levels, grains. After that came improved spaciousness, interior storage, and useability. One of the most significant gains was to get the instrument panel down and away from the occupants, which contributes to a more open environment, without sacrificing packaging or storage space.
TT: What was your biggest challenge?
DB: Getting gaps down to equal or better than those of the competition. That required a paradigm shift in thinking in the corporation, and it does add some cost. That Bob Lutz mandated from the top that we were going to be as good as the competition, with no excuses, had a huge effect. Gary White, our VLE, said, "We're going to do the highest-quality interiors," and he opened up his budget to allow that to happen. We have a PQ [perceived quality] team that comes in at every phase and gives an assessment of where we are relative to the competition.
TT: What else is special about these interiors?
DB: We offer two completely different interiors. The work-truck interior is a little more robust, which you expect in a work truck, and accommodates a bench seat. The premium interior, shared with our new SUVs, has every amenity you get in a Yukon Denali. We use wood accents in the Chevy and metallic accents in the GMC interior, which is called professional grade. By professional grade, we mean an upscale look and a feeling of precision. You can buy a cheap blender or power drill, or you can buy a name-brand professional grade--one that looks more robust, its controls feel more solid. That's the feeling we're trying to convey with GMC.
Ralph Gilles is Chrysler Group design vice president for Dodge and Jeep trucks. In previous assignments, he penned numerous concept vehicles and production cars including the Dodge Viper and the highly acclaimed Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum.
TT: What were the team's objectives for the current Ram?
RG: When it came to the front end, trying to create this undeniably Dodge face. It's become somewhat of an icon in the last decade, a timeless aesthetic, not overbaked, not trying too hard. Compared with the previous generation, this is much slicker, with cleaner lines and better attention to fit and finish. And that'll keep improving as time goes on.
TT: And the interior?
RG: Trying to increase space. For example, people use it as a three-front-passenger vehicle, so we had to come up with some innovations to create a cupholder and storage area that would go up out of the way and allow the maximum amount of legroom. Also, simple ergonomics. We didn't want to get tricky with a lot of buttons and switches, so we stuck with simple circular knobs and ditched the 4WD lever.
TT: Can you give us a clue on the soon-to-come next generation?
RG: Every time we do a new truck, we fight the icon factor. People want the Ram to look like a Ram, so you don't want something that's so different you alienate your loyalists. It's probably going to be a little bolder than today's Ram, and I think you're going to see a path to premium; everyone is making their trucks more luxurious. Also, fragmenting markets create a pool of more diverse customers, which means a dramatic variety of people you have to satisfy. One thing we'll focus on is the ability to make the truck a chameleon, to change personalities. One word for it is "sweet," in the sense of, "gotta have it!" Stay tuned.