100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Rachel RICHARDS

Vice President of Retail Strategy • Sonic Automotive Inc. • Age 47
 
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? My father's career was in the transportation industry working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. I was always proud of what he did. My parents were extremely loyal to Ford products. When the opportunity came available to interview with Ford Motor Co., I wanted to get the job because I knew I would make my parents proud.

First automotive job: I worked for Ford Motor Credit Co. in 1984 as a customer service representative in debt collection.

Proudest professional achievement: I have mentored other women and men in the auto industry. When they tell me I've made a difference for them, that's when I'm most proud.

Current challenge at work: Most people don't enjoy buying a vehicle, and at Sonic we really want to change that. We are researching and developing a new experience for the customer.

On letting him win: In 1996, I was with Ford Credit and I was just promoted to be branch manager at the company's largest branch. I was the first female to run the branch, and the dealers were so nervous. They thought I was competent but were concerned I wouldn't be able to keep up with them on the golf course or drinking and eating. A lot of business is done on the golf course. I actually had to let one of them win some games. I still keep in touch with a few of those guys.

What you do to relax: I enjoy cooking, exercising and spending time with my daughter, husband and dear friends.

— Donna Harris

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