Nicho Vardis | Manager and Keynote Speaker

March 17, 2015

Hellcat designer and CIA grad led symposium at Auto Show

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Nicho Vardis ’99 challenged students to create


Some 100 aspiring automotive designers learned about the field from a lead designer behind the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat when CIA held its annual Automotive Design Symposium for high school and CIA students at the 2015 Cleveland International Auto Show at the IX Center on March 13.

Nicholas “Nicho” Vardis, the keynote speaker for this year’s symposium, is a 1999 CIA graduate and Manager – SRT/Mopar Design Studios for FCA US LLC, formerly Chrysler Group LLC.

Vardis gave a presentation about his education and career experiences. “As a student at CIA, I was inspired by the many guest speakers and instructors that took time out of their schedule to meet and interact with us,” he said. “Their counsel and advice helped me to define my career path. In order to keep art alive, it’s important to continue to give back to the community and inspire future creators and designers in and out of the automotive industry.”

Vardis has become one of those ‘guest speakers,’ returning to his alma mater regularly to teach Saturday automotive design classes along with Chrysler colleagues. GM designers also teach Saturday classes at CIA.

As the featured speaker at the Automotive Design Symposium, he led the students in a hands-on design sketching exercise that resulted in a group of young women from Beaumonth High School winning an informal first place for their environmentally friendly speed car.

Vardis concluded by bringing students onto the auto show floor at the I-X Center to view the hot new cars he helped design.

The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat was the showpiece. An iconic American “muscle car,” it has been making headlines in the automotive press as the fastest and most powerful car in the world, with a top speed of 199 mph. The Hellcat looks as supercharged as it performs – thanks to Vardis and his design team.

Vardis also has responsibility for overseeing exterior design of the Dodge Charger SRT, Dodge Challenger SRT, Dodge Viper and Jeep® Grand Cherokee SRT products. He has worked on numerous recently launched vehicles, including the 2015 Dodge Challenger, and the Challenger 392.

Vardis is a native of Lorain, Ohio. An avid car enthusiast, he enjoys racing open-wheel cars on a professional and amateur level.

CIA’s annual Automotive Design Symposium is underwritten by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers Association in conjunction with the 2015 Cleveland International Auto Show.

Above: Nicho Vardis ’99 with CIA students and faculty at the 2015 Cleveland International Auto Show.
Text and Image courtesy CIA News.