100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Barbara PILARSKI

Vice President of Business Development • Chrysler Group • Age 47
 
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I was born and raised in Detroit. I was pretty practical. If I'm going to stay in Detroit, I need to be involved in what is big in Detroit — GM, Ford or Chrysler.

First automotive job: In 1985 coming straight out of undergraduate business school, I came to work for Chrysler as a budget analyst in our Warren Truck plant.

Proudest professional achievement: I've done several transactions that have brought some significant engine and transmission technology to Chrysler. The most recent was in April with ZF with the eight-speed transmission. I led negotiations with ZF. We negotiated the license arrangement so that we'll be building their transmissions in our plant. Those will be used in many of our vehicles.

This will take us leaps and bounds ahead of our competitors. I feel pretty good about that. A lot of people, for fuel-efficiency reasons, are really depending on that.

Current challenge at work: Probably 70 percent of my time right now is spent with my counterpart at Fiat to negotiate and define how we're going to work together on a variety of projects: everything from developing vehicles together, supplying each other with powertrains, purchasing, distribution. The biggest challenge is to figure out how to make that work together because there are very aggressive time lines.

Dream job: If I am going to live the rest of my career in the automotive industry, quite frankly I like the area I'm in. In order to make it a dream job, I'd work significantly less hours!

On elevated emotions: There's a funny little story. What I do is I negotiate arrangements. I negotiate deals. Most of the time I negotiate with men. Sometimes it's effective. Sometimes I feel I can ask them for more, push them in different directions. I was negotiating with this company, and I think we were two years into the negotiation process. We were coming very close, coming down to last few issues. We were sitting very close in a conference room. I'm always sensitive to pushing things too far. I think emotions were a bit elevated. I made my passionate plea for whatever position I was taking. He suddenly stopped me and said: "Susan! Susan!" My name isn't Susan. It's Barb. At that point he had regressed so far — Susan was his wife.

What you do to relax: I have three kids. I run my house sort of like I run things here at work.

One thing that I like to do — my husband and I bought a second home. Already I live in Romeo [Michigan] and have 10 acres. So we're in the country. So we bought our second house in St. Clair Shores. I call it the Mistake on the Lake. We did a huge renovation. I really enjoy the process of taking something and redoing it. I'll tell you, for quality of life it's really nice. It's about 45 minutes from home.

— Bradford Wernle

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