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People: Thomas Gale

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Auto analysts credit Chrysler Corp.'s recent success to novel design concepts like 'cab forward'--which stretches a car's interior. The spearhead of that resurgence is Thomas C. Gale, '66, M.A. '67, MBA '78,

Chrysler's vice president for product design and international operations--a man Time magazine calls 'the hottest automotive designer in history.' That's quite an accolade, but clearly well deserved. When Chrysler decided to overcome 'slow death by committees,'

Gale helped flatten hierarchies by leading a 'platform team' to nurse cars from concept to production. Tom embellished designs with aerodynamic curvatures that excite consumers--witness the elegant and nimble Dodge Stealth, the rocket V-10 Dodge Viper, and his masterpiece, the LH series bearing the 'cab forward' look.

The design of Dodge trucks has contributed to doubling their market share. 'I'm very proud with what we have achieved,' says Tom with modesty, 'but here we truly work as a team, so I can't accept the credit.'

Tom has shown an interest in auto design since childhood. 'I used to draw cars all the time,' he recalls. 'Finally in fourth grade my art teacher encouraged me to go into art.'

While at MSU, he majored in industrial design. 'The beauty of being at MSU is that I was able to craft my own program,' he says. 'I took courses both in engineering and in art.' He also was 'always involved with automobiles in some kind of project, whether building, restoring or just tinkering with a high performance vehicle.'

For his exceptional achievements after 27 years with Chrysler, Automobile named Tom as 'Man of the Year' in 1994 and the Automotive Hall of Fame gave him a Distinguished Service Citation in 1995. Although some observers, like Eugene Jennings, professor emeritus of MSU's Eli Broad College of Business, believes Tom's success story has not yet peaked, Tom remains very satisfied with his present job--which is really every car enthusiast's dream come true

Author: Robert Bao

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