Chrysler shuffles executives, creates new brand

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC shifted five top executives into new or expanded roles on Tuesday, including appointing design chief Ralph Gilles to take charge of a newly created Street and Racing Technology brand.

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The executives will continue to hold multiple roles within the company, as has been the practice at Chrysler since its bankruptcy restructuring nearly two years ago when it came under the management of Italian automaker Fiat SpA <FIA.MI>.

The changes are effective immediately, Chrysler said.

The SRT brand revamps cars and trucks Chrysler offers in its lineup and makes them more powerful. The move to create a single brand under one executive parallels Fiat's approach to its own performance brand, Abarth.

The Abarth brand was revived by Fiat in 2007 under Sergio Marchionne, who is now chief executive of Chrysler and Fiat.

"It's something that Mr. Marchionne has talked about...that the two companies will continue to move closer together," Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan said. "Similar structures means similar disciplines."

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Gilles will continue to hold responsibility for exterior and interior design for Chrysler's Dodge, Ram, Chrysler and Jeep brand vehicles.

The former vice president of sales in Canada, David Buckingham, was named chief operating officer of Chrysler's Canadian arm. This is a newly created role and Buckingham will report to Bigland.

The SRT brand was first introduced in 2002, but has lacked a concerted marketing and development effort as a standalone brand in recent years.

Chrysler sold 2,901 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 cars last year. This fall, Chrysler will sell SRT-8 versions of four vehicles: the Challenger, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler 300 sedan and the Dodge Charger.

Fiat is poised to gain majority control of Chrysler after reaching a deal last week to buy the U.S. Treasury's equity stake in the company for $500 million.

The process to obtain regulatory approval can take up to 90 days, but a person familiar with the matter said it will likely take less time.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Matthew Lewis, Dave Zimmerman)