Meet four Black women executives shaping the US automotive manufacturing industry

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 26, 2024 6:15 AM EDT
Four Black women executives transforming the automotive manufacturing industry.

In 2023, the US car manufacturing market was valued over $100 billion. The US is only second to China in this respect. Despite the boom of fairly productive sector, the labor and management composition in the automotive manufacturing industry is still overwhelmingly male, although 85% of car purchase decision-making are made by women. Representation of Black women in management positions remains even lower.

The challenge of women entering the C-suite roles in America’s automotive firms has been attributed to factors such as too much emphasis on cultural fit, a gap in development opportunities and a lack of referrals by bosses have been identified. But research indicates that diverse experiences and perspectives are vital in driving innovation. And early results show that from engineering and marketing to legal, Black women are driving transformational change from within.

In light of the above, Blackstars News takes a look at these four Black women executives transforming the automotive manufacturing industry landscape in the United States.

1. Olabisi Boyle
Boyle was promoted to Senior Vice President, Product Planning & Mobility Strategy at Hyundai Motor America in 2023. She is at the forefront of introducing products specifically tailored for the U.S. market. Boyle leads strategic lineup, long-range planning, and market research, business analytics, and advanced pricing for the South Korean automobile giant. Her work creating a partnership with Electrify America on EV charging and an agreement with Shell for hydrogen infrastructure development is positioning the company as a leader in future technology innovations.

“I think the major challenge I face, especially as a woman and a Black woman in auto, is sometimes people underestimate your potential. And sometimes people don’t recognize your abilities. And so I just double-down, and I get built up, I make sure I know what I am doing, and you can overcome that. But people sometimes make an initial judgment,” Boyle said about her experience as a Black woman in the automotive industry.

Boyle holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Columbia University, a Bachelor of Science in physics from Fordham University, and a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. She previously worked in Product & Mobility for Visa and at Chrysler for 12 years. She identifies becoming a the chief engineer for the minivan at Chrysler as her big break into the industry.

2. Chandra Vasser
As Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Nissan Americas, Vasser is creating an equitable workspace for all employees. She understands that sales success and employee success are interrelated and is developing a culture where all employees can be productive, respected and feel safe in their work environments. Vasser has launched a DEI strategy whose core pillars are; people, culture and partners.

She is also President of the Nissan Foundation whose mission is to promote respect and intercultural understanding amongst ethnic groups. It has donated $14 million to over 150 non-profits since its founding. Vasser holds a bachelor of business administration in accounting from Tennessee State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. She has worked at Nissan for nearly two decades.

3. Sandra Phillips Rogers
Rogers was working in a private law firm when Toyota made an offer she ‘couldn’t refuse’. At the time, she was an outside counsel representing the automotive manufacturer in an unintended-acceleration recall litigation. She currently serves as Group Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Toyota North America.

She leads a team of 100 legal professionals and is responsible for a budget of over $200 million. Rogers’ leadership has reportedly saved the company more than $20 million. She is a member of Toyota’s Global Leadership Team and Executive Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She earned both her undergraduate and Juris Doctor at the University of Texas at Austin.

4. Ayesha Coker
Coker represents the luxury of the German automobile manufacturer she works for. She serves as the Vice President of Marketing for Porsche Cars North America, which specializes high-performance sports cars, SUVs and sedans. In addition to being responsible for experiential brand marketing and strategic partnerships, she also leads operations for the Porsche Track Experience, Porsche Travel Experience and the Porsche Experience Centers in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Notably, Coker is the first African American and first woman of color to join the company’s leadership team. She has worked at Porsche for nearly 15 years, having joined as Experiential Brand Event Manager. Coker earned a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and an Associate Applied Science degree in Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology.