(L-R) Ralph Gilles, Head of Global Design FCA; Claudette de la Haye; Erwin Raphael, GM, Genesis
By Claudette de la Haye
Caribbean News Now contributor
#mediawomanrising #NAIAS #Chrysler #Pacifica #GenesisNAIAS
DETROIT, Michigan USA – Lights camera, action, while belles of the ball mingled with the metallic chariots the automobile industry had to offer at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Some 12,881 patrons attended the charity preview to raise $5 million for children’s charities in southeast Michigan.
But the real affair was that of the ever apparent talent in attendance from the Caribbean Diaspora that get up every day to work in the automotive plants and make the auto industry what it is today.
It was without a doubt that the X series, prototype Humvee stole the show at this year’s 2017 NAIAS Charity Preview. Cinderella’s Ball would have been envious of this delicious pumpkin coloured octagonal carriage of stealth that I just had to nickname, “The pursuit of the versute.”
A versatility utilitarian commercial Humvee with rugged wheels designed to chisel terrain across Latin American and the Caribbean. If you want it big, massive and behemoth (twice the size of Mercedes G-Wagon) it gets the job done hauling, while there is substantial room -- ideal for those family weekend get-away adventures (seating mom, dad, grandparents and grandkids too!) and truly the biggest vehicle at the 2017 NAIAS.
The 2017 NAIAS provided a rare look at Caribbean talent at executive level and I was able to engage the illustrious Ralph Gilles, head of global design, FCA Global, and Erwin Raphael, general manager, Genesis Brand. Both men are former colleagues at Chrysler.
Gilles was promoted to his current position in mid 2015. So, in view of road safety during the height of tourism season in the Caribbean, I asked, him what FIAT Chrysler Automotive had to offer in terms of vehicular semi-autonomous driving?
Ralph Gilles: The Portal is a new concept designed by the generation born between 1982 -2004 who are now entering family formation stage and those people really care about safety. Now, you’ve heard about autonomous deriving but the vehicle is classed as a level three, semi-autonomous, which means that the vehicles can take care of itself in a freeway situation or a boulevard situation.
But, what’s interesting about that is that is fused with existing technology; radar, sensors, auto braking and lane assist. And what we are doing with that technology is fusing with other technologies and the name for it is Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.
And that is available on our Chrysler Minivans, Chrysler 300 and some of our Jeeps. So, the technology is slowly creeping in, some from the aircraft industry, the military industry. And, what it does is sense that the driver is drowsy and really out of it or that your texting when you shouldn’t be then, it can automatically brake. Those features are beginning to find their way on the lower class vehicles.
Q: Claudette de la Haye As everybody knows in the Caribbean from island to island we have various forms of terrain. So, how well will these vehicles perform in the rural areas?
A: Like dirt road and the sort of thing like that or two lane track roads. And, that’s actually the challenge because a lot of these systems are camera based. They need to measure the lines, and of course I live in the country as well and there are no lines to see. And, even on a day like to today in Michigan the roads are all covered in snow. So, the resolution on the cameras has to become much more refined. We basically have to train the vehicle to recognize snow-banking as the edge of the road and things like that, as well as dirt. But that’s going to be a continuous challenge. But, other simple things like obstacle avoidance can just be radar so it doesn’t really matter so much. So, once again we’re fusing the technologies; radar, camera based and, typically, sensors to really make the cars as safe as possible.
Q: You launched the Chrysler Pacifica last year. How well is that vehicle doing in terms of sales and acceptance in the community?
A: Very good. The vehicle has been on sale for little over half a year in the US market. We had a very good month last month. We’re starting to gain popularity even though we’re more expensive than the outgoing vehicle that it replaces because there’s a lot more technology. But, the good news is that we were the best selling name plate in the minivan segment again! So, Chrysler outsold I believe one of our Japanese competitors and is soon to outsell the other. So, I’m very proud and we just won the car of the year and utility of the year award for the North American International Auto Show where, we are today. It’s a great team booster and, it’s our first plug-in hybrid ever and, it’s also in this vehicle. It’s a very multi-functioned vehicle that is going to make a lot of people happy.