Fiat/Chrysler's new head of global design says his biggest task is aligning the styling approval process of the two groups so that his Italian and American teams can cooperate -- if necessary -- on vehicle projects.
But Lorenzo Ramaciotti does not expect much rivalry between the two sides.
Ramaciotti, named to the post in July, is part of a 22-member Group Executive Council that is working toward integrating operations of Fiat and Chrysler. Still, he says, global design coordination doesn't necessarily mean globalizing design.
"I do not envisage the Fiat team in Turin ever designing the next Ram pickup, nor Auburn Hills taking the lead on the next Fiat minicar," Ramaciotti says.
But he doesn't rule out getting ideas from across the ocean if designers on one side or the other are stuck for a solution.
"The two organizations have different type of technical feasibility gates to get through before arriving to design freeze," he says. "My first task is to align the approval process to give the U.S. and Italian design teams a fair and transparent context to cooperate. Thus, to permit both teams to contribute in due time, in a proper way, the project approval process should be perfectly aligned."
In his new job, Ramaciotti says he plans to spend "roughly a week a month in the U.S. and three in Europe."
He says he will spend more time in Europe because he retains operating responsibility for design work in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
"The operational responsibility for the North American region remains with Ralph Gilles," he says. "For North America, I have to give guidance and assure consistency, but I don't have day-to-day responsibility."
He plans to do plenty of teleconferencing and file and video sharing.
"But there is a point in the project in which you should see the physical object," Ramaciotti says. "Design is a three-dimensional job and new technologies are not yet good enough to substitute for your eye."