DETROIT – When the ’14 Chrysler 200 launches, it will signal a new design direction for the brand, the auto maker’s chief designer says.

“The current Chryslers on the road today certainly don’t reflect where we’re headed,” Ralph Gilles tells WardsAuto at the North American International Auto Show here. “What I can safely say is we are deviating from where we are today, completely. It’s a very different feeling (and) look.

“(The new 200) shares no surface language with any previous Chrysler we’ve ever seen.”

Gilles neither reveals any design cues for the forthcoming 200 nor says whether it will follow current sharp-edge trends seen in the Kia Optima and Ford Fusion.

“Saad (Chehab, Chrysler brand president and CEO) and Sergio (Marchionne, Chrysler CEO) both were very instrumental in finding the new mission of the car – new branding. I think it’s going to be a beautiful and relevant vehicle,” Gilles says.

Chrysler reveals an all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee at the auto show, as well as other refreshed vehicles, across this year’s lineup. The 200’s platform-mate, the midsize Dodge Avenger, lacks design upgrades “because its lifespan is not as long” and will be retired after this year, Gilles says.

He says the auto maker already has begun investing in a replacement for the vehicle. Previous plans unveiled by Fiat, Chrysler’s parent, suggest Chrysler’s D-segment vehicles will be built on Alfa Romeo architecture.

Gilles does not disclose whether the 200 and Dodge’s midsize product will launch at the same time. As for the future of the fullsize Chrysler 300, also due for a refresh in coming years, he says, “Stay tuned.”

Chrysler already has recast the Jeep Grand Cherokee in answering the challenge of making it the brand’s global flagship, he says. “You have to design a car that’s going to be relevant and look good and appeal to such a broad audience.”

Changing customer tastes in the U.S. allowed the design team to create distinct looks for each of the SUV’s trims: Summit, Overland, Laredo, Limited and SRT. And for the first time, one level – Summit – has exterior design features unlike other trims, including a revised fascia and trim-exclusive wheels.

“It’s really kind of subdividing the brand of Grand Cherokee,” Gilles says, adding that the SUV’s new 8-speed transmission enhances its credence.

During a roundtable discussion with reporters at the auto show, Marchionne notes changes to the Dodge Challenger muscle car are in store. Gilles elaborates slightly, assuring enthusiasts they won’t be disappointed.

“We’re reinvesting in the Challenger. A lot of people are saying ‘Oh, the Challenger is going to die and go away’ – no. We’re taking care of a brand that has served us very well,” he says.

“The Challenger is the oldest interior of the whole group, the electronics are the oldest in the group. There’s a lot of potential – I’ll leave it at that.”

afoley@wardsauto.com