Women’s involvement in the automotive industry dates back to 1888 with Bertha Benz, who took the first road trip ever. Impatient with her husband’s constant tinkering as she waited for reliable transportation for her and her children, she eventually took husband Karl Benz’s prototype automobile on the road. This meant that she had to find fuel along the way, push the car up hills and perform roadside repairs on her own. When she returned home, she reported design changes needed to make the vehicle more reliable. Jumping to the early 1920s, Dorothee Pullinger managed a factory mostly employing women who built the Galloway car — invented by women, for women.
Over the decades, countless ladies have inspired the masses. And with the automotive industry growing and attracting women into successful careers, there’s no better way to celebrate their contributions than listing some of the great vehicles influenced by women.
2016 Acura NSX: Michelle Christensen, designer at Acura, was the exterior design project leader for the new Acura NSX and the first woman ever to lead a design team for a production supercar. The design of the NSX is more bad-to-the-bone than ever – it brings the thunder and will make your senses tingle with every glance.
2016 Cadillac XTS: Christine Park, 28, senior designer for Cadillac, loves sharing her passion for cars by developing designs with others like her. Cadillac is known for world-class luxury cars and Park says the highlight of her career was penning the XTS’s interior design and developing it with her team. “The reality of it didn’t even really hit me until the day I saw a pre-prototype of the XTS being built. What was once in my imagination had been transformed into a running machine.”
2016 Nissan Titan Pickup: Diane Allen, Exterior Designer at Nissan and a 30-year veteran of the company, headed the Nissan Titan’s styling – a truck that hadn’t been re-designed since 2002. With 310-horsepower and 555 ft.-lb. of torque, the Titan is pure gearhead muscle designed to haul everything from boats to farming equipment. Diana was also involved in designing the Armada truck, Nissan Rogue and the first Infiniti M5.
2015 Ford Mustang: It’s a car that radiates masculinity, yet a group of talented women helped master the muscle influence in the newer models. According to Ford, Marcy Fisher (Vehicle Line Director), Michele Lubin Henney (Vehicle Integration Supervisor), Susan Lampinen (Chief Color and Materials Designer), and Melanie Banker (U.S. Mustang Brand Manager) were a few of the many women responsible for the planning, development and overall success of the 2015 Ford Mustang, everything from how the car sounds to how it feels when driven, the fuel economy and even ensuring driver and passengers comfort.
2014 Corvette C7 Stingray: Helen Emsley, the interior design chief for performance cars, full-size trucks and large crossovers for Chevrolet and GMC, completely redesigned the interior of the 2014 Corvette with her team. Sitting in the driver’s seat mimics the feeling one gets in a luxurious personal jet’s cockpit – fitting for a 455-horsepower sports car.
2009 BMW Z4: The second generation of the sporty Z4 convertible was more elegant, more elaborate and more aggressive than the first. Prominent names for the masterpiece include 32-year-old exterior designer Juliane Blasi, and 37-year-old interior designer Nadya Arnaout, who were led the Z4’s total re-design. According to a report by the New York Times, BMW held an anonymous competition that required contestants to submit sketches and full-size clay models of what they thought the car should look like, and these two ladies won.
2005 BMW Mini concept: Alexandra “Sandy” McGill, DesignworksUSA’s lead designer of color, materials and finish (CMF), worked with a diverse, competitive team to design the first-ever modern Mini concept and show cars. It was revealed first at the Frankfurt Auto Show, and then Tokyo, Geneva and Detroit. McGill has also been directly involved with BMW’s 3-Series, and she used her aviation and luxury materials knowledge to aid BMW’s re-launch of the Rolls-Royce brand in 2003.
1958 Cadillac Eldorado Seville “Baroness”: The late Suzanne E. Vanderbilt made her career as part of GM’s praised Creative Design Team. She was one of the original Damsels of Design – a group of eight skilled female designers that the famed Harley Earl hired during the early-1950s. She designed two special Cadillacs: the black-on-black Eldorado Seville coupe known as the “Baroness” (and available with a telephone and extra compartment space for driver and passengers), and the Cadillac Saxony convertible, offered in a unique grey-green metallic color. She also designed many other products, including the interiors for the Chevrolet Vega and Monza models.
Ford F-150: Ford Program Management Analyst Alana Stranger is in charge of one of America’s most iconic trucks and has been working for Ford for over 20 years. Stranger lives, breathes and drives the F-150, and she regularly talks with other owners about their trucks for feedback, then relays that to her team to make any improvements needed. It’s no wonder why the F-150 is Ford’s best-selling truck.
Toyota FT-1 concept: When first revealed at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, it was awe-inspiring. Wendy Lee, Studio Chief Designer at Toyota’s Calty Design Studio and Sellene Lee, the Calty creative designer were key contributors to the sleek, futuristic design. The car looks fast while sitting still. The “FT” stands for “Future Toyota” and the number “1” represents the ultimate Toyota sportscar. Enthusiasts eagerly await seeing this fantasy car, or something resembling it, roll off the production lines.