LOS ANGELES -- In the hypermasculine world of automotive exterior design, there have been few opportunities for women. They usually are shunted to interiors or the color and trim department.
Certainly, there have been exceptions, such as Diane Allen at Nissan and Anne Asensio at General Motors and Renault. Of course, their accomplishments have come after years of struggling through the ranks.
But with her first-day-at-work sketches of a concept version of the Acura ZDX crossover, Michelle Christensen broke through Honda's tracing-paper ceiling.
Christensen, 28, boasts car-girl credentials, having grown up in a family that drag-raced and collected vintage metal, including a Plymouth GTX, Dodge Super Bee and a few 1932 Fords. Her senior thesis at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., was a rebirth of the Barracuda muscle car for DaimlerChrysler.
"I was the only girl in class a lot, but it was never really an issue, and I had supportive classmates. I was always one of the guys," said Christensen, who could pass for Uma Thurman's little sister.
"At Honda, the whole 'female designer' thing never came up until later. Design is design."