How Jeep went too far with 3D modelling, 3-row SUV plans for India: Ralph Gilles explains

Ralph Gilles was one of the early adopters for digital design in the automobile industry, maybe too early. He highlights why he and his team had to take a step back to clay modelling. He also mentions the upcoming 3-row midsize SUV for India.

By: and Updated: Mar 17, 2021 12:19 PM
Ralph Gilles Design Head Jeep WagoneerRalph Gilles, Chief Design Officer, Stellantis with the new Jeep Wagoneer

Ralph Giles, an automobile designer who has spent all his life designing vehicles for Chrysler and its sub-brands was also the President and CEO of the SRT brand while also the Vice-President of Design at Chrysler until recently. Gilles is now the Global Head of Jeep Design. One of Gilles’ latest creations was the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models in addition to the updated Jeep Compass for the global market.

1998 Jeep Jeepster concept model

Gilles is one of the early adopters of digital 3D modelling in automotive design around the world. However, he pointed out that at the time they may have been a little too early with the adoption. In a chat with Express Drives, Gilles opened up about the time the design team went too far with 3D modelling and were forced to take a step back.

Jeep Design Team with Jeepster conceptJeep Design Team with The Jeepster concept in clay model

When asked about how much of traditional clay modelling and modern digitised 3D modelling is used by his design team for its latest vehicles, Giles said “We were actually early adopters of 3D modelling. I was actually one of the first designers to do 3D modelling. However, we went a little too far. If you remember correctly, around 2005, our cars were very blocky and squared. Because at the time, the software wasn’t sophisticated enough.”

2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.7 Limited2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.7 Limited

It bears true that Jeep models from that era did feature highly squared and boxy designs. Case in point, the Jeep Grand Cherokee from 2005 seen below. The model features a squared-off front grille with the iconic 7-slots, traditionally designed rounded off headlamps, the overall silhouette, trapezoidal wheel arches and other design elements were fairly square and boxy. However, they did pave the way for the future for the design language of SUV and what people still associate them to look like. Additionally, many of Jeep’s competitors have tried to emulate it in their designs as well.

Gilles added by mentioning that the team was too committed to it. It is why they took the call to move back to clay modelling. Now, Gilles and his team use a blend of both – Clay and 3D modelling, while designing new vehicles.

Jeep Jeepster concept sketchJeep Jeepster concept sketch

He outlines the process; “We start with a sketch, from it then we sculpt in clay following which we get a digital representation. From there we go back and forth. We use the digital medium more for speed, not necessarily for form.”

Gilles and his team work with a philosophy to “build the most beautiful surface” they can. Clay or 3D modelling are just mere tools, so a balance of both means is required in modern vehicle design.

Jeep’s 3-row mid-size SUV for India

As for the 3-row SUV, which is expected to be launched in India soon, Gilles stated that the Jeep brand offers two design streams — the Wrangler and the Wagoneer. The new 3-row SUV will use the underpinnings of the Compass and will follow the design language used on the Wagoneer.

Gilles stated “Honestly, it’s really a new vehicle. It really has very little to do with the current Compass. The new vehicle has its own design, its own element, and its own theme, and it’s going to be optimised for what it will offer. It’s going to be the first 3-row SUV in that segment from us, and we take that quite seriously.”

Jeep is currently in the final development phase of the 3-row SUV for the Indian market. FCA is investing Rs 1,827 crore in the Indian market. The plant in Ranjangaon is currently manufacturing the Compass since the model was launched and is also the production site that caters to the global demand of the right-hand-drive version of the Compass. Now, on March 15, Jeep will launch the new Wrangler in India which will be the second model to be manufactured at the same facility. The plant is also expected to manufacture the new 3-row mid-size SUV along with the next-generation Grand Cherokee model. This plan is expected to be executed by the end of 2022.

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