Greg Howell, Ram’s chief exterior designer, is the man behind those new grilles on the Ram pickup’s Rebel and Limited trims — those somewhat polarizing grilles that traded Ram’s traditional crosshairs in 2015 for more modular designs.
But the reaction has been terrific when measured in sales, and the look was carried over this year to some of Ram’s heavy-duty offerings.
It was the kind of bold move that has paid off for Howell in his career at FCA US Fiat Chrysler.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, who grew up in metro Detroit, Howell began drawing cars in the second grade and never stopped. He joined Chrysler in 2000, with a big assist from his current boss, Ralph Gilles, who is now Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s global head of design.
“I was going to go to Western [Michigan University], when my Dad suggested that I go check out the College for Creative Studies” in Detroit, Howell recalled. At 18, Howell was the second youngest student in his class. In his junior year, he was hired as an intern at Chrysler’s former design center in Madison Heights, Mich., working for Gilles — then a star designer.
“He saw how hard I worked and that I was dedicated to the craft and saw the passion that I have,” Howell said of Gilles. “But after I graduated, I didn’t get a job at Chrysler. I got every other job offer except the one I wanted. So one day, Ralph came to my apartment and said, ‘We have to redo your portfolio so it’s skewed to Chrysler.’”
For six hours, Gilles and Howell worked.
“I came in here and presented it to [former then Chrysler’s heads of design] Trevor Creed and Tom Gale. I was a nervous wreck — but it worked.”
During his career at FCA, Howell worked on Jeep and Dodge vehicles before moving to Ram. He has stuck around through changes of ownership and a bankruptcy.
“My whole career seems to have been very unorthodox,” Howell said. "But I’ve grown a lot through some of the difficulties.”
— Larry P. Vellequette