L+T: The super bowl commercial with Eminem struck a nerve. Outside of the car business, people are still talking about that.
RG: It was a great young marketing team that’s fearless. Eminem is not the typical person you think of to integrate a commercial, so that’s beautiful. We have a management team and a leader in Sergio that allows us to take these risks. That in and of itself is a great symbol of how much Chrysler has changed.
L+T: You mentioned having a passion for the cars. You have vehicles like the Challenger and the Charger that are poignantly tied to the brand’s history. Maybe you can tell which of those are you most passionate about from a historical perspective and how you take that into the future smartly without becoming retro?
RG: We’re already doing that. I love them all. They are all my children, per se. It’s kind of become timeless. It’s amazing when I drive Challengers around how many thumbs up I get from 18 and 16-year-olds. It still has this incredible penetration even though it is a retro statement. Going forward, we’re well under way working on the next generation small car for Dodge that will have its own attitude. We can’t divulge our secrets. Your question is framed perfectly. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do; start looking into the future. It takes product to do that marketing. Empty comments don’t do it.
L+T: You grew up in Montreal, but you’ve been in Michigan for a long time, and it gets such a bad rap.
RG: I spent 18 years of my life in Canada. I’ve been here about 21 years. I was actually born in New York. When I first came here I didn’t understand, I was just plunked down here. I was taken aback at how barren some areas were and how run down other areas were. When you live here, it’s amazing how cosmopolitan it actually is. It doesn’t have a focused epicenter like a lot of cities do, but so many people have come from all over the world to be involved in the auto industry whether it’s GM, Ford or Chrysler have hired people. They have hired them in Europe or Africa or South America and then eventually as they got promoted they ended up in Detroit and they’ve had children. Detroit is actually a surprisingly colorful place with a lot of culture that people don’t really associate with the Midwest and a lot of intelligent people, and a lot of super high skilled people that understand fluid dynamics, that understand stamping technology, electronics, on top of it, is the media industry. The auto industry is the highest spending industry in terms of advertising dollars. We’ve got great industries out here that do that, a budding film industry and great art. One of the things I first realized about Detroit was the amount of art that’s here, thanks to the art college. I went to the art college right here in Detroit as one of the fifth largest art museums in the United States, right here in Detroit, so there’s a lot more culture. It’s one of those cities you kind of live in for a while and it takes a while to appreciate, but when you discover the pockets of interest, some of the parts are impressive.
L+T: You’re also from an immigrant family yourself?
RG: My parents were both born in Haiti and lived there until they were in their early teens, and emigrated to the United States, and eventually in Canada. I’m very proud of it.