The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan drew widespread praise when it was introduced last year for its beautiful form and styling. The reason? Irina Zavatski, a 39-year-old Jewish émigré from the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan who's now a mother of two living in suburban Detroit and working as one of the nation's top auto designers.
Zavatski, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, sketched and developed the Pacifica from its initial stages to its launch in 2016.
It was her mission, she told reporters during the launch last year, "to make the minivan cool again."
Zavatski, who has since moved to Jeep, told an interviewer from her alma mater that she viewed the Pacifica as "a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any designer -- to influence a project from nothing to everything. There's not an inch of that vehicle I did not touch."
Her mission to inject beauty and styling into the traditional minivan form was transformational. She tells a story of a female classmate who had twins, and was crying at the thought of having to drive a minivan. "I don't want women to cry when they have to buy a car," the designer told the Cleveland Institute last year.
"I think women are proud to be moms, but I feel like they lose something of themselves," Zavatski said in the interview. "You want to be other things, too."
She has said she takes particular pride in not just being an artist, but one whose work is on public display in the real world.
"If you are a painter or a sculptor, people have to go to a gallery to see your work," she said. "But if you're a car designer, they see your work every day all over the place."
-- Larry P. Vellequette