Jennifer Thomas, 42
Vice president of corporate affairs, American Honda Motor Co.
Big break: Working after college as a receptionist for the National Automobile Dealers Association’s legislative office in Washington, where she got the “lobbying bug”
Jennifer Thomas hit the ground running as a top lobbyist with American Honda.
One of her first projects was playing a critical role in 2019 negotiations on an emissions deal with the state of California.
It was highly controversial at the time, since the Trump administration opposed the deal and automakers were split on whether to support the California compromise or seek a national standard that might be more favorable to the industry.
“It was a hot-button issue and it happened during my first month on the job with Honda,” Thomas said. “I was familiar with the issue, so I was able to jump right in.”Part of her job, Thomas said, was to provide guidance to Honda leadership on the merits of the California deal for the automaker. Honda has long been a leader in reducing emissions.
“It was the right thing for Honda to do,” Thomas said. “It was the right thing for the environment and it was the right thing for our customers.”
Thomas is now leading advocacy efforts to urge the Biden administration to adopt a national standards program for vehicle greenhouse gases and fuel-economy standards that are aligned with California, she said.
Thomas also helped the automaker with community outreach when the coronavirus hit.
She led an initiative to deliver 10 Odyssey minivans for use by Detroit that were specially outfitted for transporting people potentially infected with COVID-19.
She also helped Honda purchase personal protective equipment, donate more than 100,000 face shields to medical facilities, and work with a ventilator supplier to increase production of compressors for the devices.
“It was very rewarding,” Thomas said. “I saw the opportunity for Honda to jump in and help.”
— Laurence Iliff