DETROIT — The management shakeup atop Fiat Chrysler continues, as one of the automaker’s most successful designers heads back to his home continent for a new role overseeing design for Maserati, Fiat, Abarth and Alfa Romeo.
Klaus Busse -- the German-born executive who transformed the interiors of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles -- is leaving the U.S. to shape Fiat Chrysler’s European brands, a spokesman said. He will be replaced by Christopher Benjamin, a former Volvo designer who crafted the interior of the 2015 Chrysler 300.
Busse, 45, becomes head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Europe, Middle East and Africa region, continuing to report to Ralph Gilles, who is FCA’s head of global design. He will also report to Alfredo Altavilla, FCA’s head of the EMEA region.
Busse announced the transfer on Twitter. It was reported earlier Tuesday by the Detroit Free Press. The move takes effect immediately.
Busse came to Auburn Hills for the former DaimlerChrysler AG in 2005 with his wife and two sons. It was supposed to be a two-year stint. But he remained with Chrysler Group when it was shed by its German owner two years later and stayed through its 2009 bankruptcy and rescue by Italy’s Fiat.
In 2013, Busse became the first interior designer to ever be named an Automotive News All-Star for design.
The tall, lanky German left a direct mark throughout FCA’s U.S. vehicle lineup – especially on doors, steering wheels, instrument clusters and other parts that are touched by occupants. He also created the radically different interior that debuted on the 2009 Ram pickup.
In other vehicles, Busse worked with a closely knit team of interior designers who took chances that paid off, such as the interior of the 2015 Chrysler 200 and Dodge Challenger. He traveled the world searching for inspiration and colors, always leaning toward natural hues and contrasts that pleased the eye.
He also encouraged his designers to incorporate “Easter eggs” into their designs, especially with Jeeps. As a result, Jeeps headlamps, wheel rims and windshields are branded with small, subtle images of Jeep’s iconic seven-slot grill or a 1942 Willys MB climbing a rock.
Busse’s departure is the latest in a string of management changes at FCA over the last 10 days. They include the resignations of Saad Chehab, the former head of the Chrysler brand, and Jason Stoicevich, the former North American head of Fiat.
FCA also reorganized its brand structure in North America, placing Dodge head Tim Kuniskis atop Dodge, Chrysler and Fiat, and giving Jeep head Mike Manley some responsibility to oversee the Ram brand.