Carla Bailo Senior Vice President, Research & Development-Nissan Americas>

Carla Bailo is the Senior Vice President, Research & Development-Nissan Americas. In this role, Bailo reports to Colin Dodge, chairman of Nissan’s Management Committee-Americas (MC-A), and is responsible for all of Nissan’s vehicle engineering and development operations in Michigan, Arizona, Mexico and Brazil. She is also a member of Nissan’s MC-A, the company’s highest-ranking decision-making body in the Americas region.

Bailo was previously based in Japan where she served as OEM business unit divisional general manager for Nissan Motor Company, Ltd. In this multi-dimensional role she was responsible for overall operations, revenue and profitability of Nissan’s OEM relationships for vehicle, powertrain, technology and intellectual property business worldwide. 

Bailo joined Nissan in 1989 as a vehicle testing engineer at the Nissan Technical Center North America (NTCNA) in Farmington Hills, Mich.

In 2003 she was promoted to director of Vehicle Program Management where she oversaw all of NTCNA’s engineering development projects, as well as cost, quality and delivery metrics. Also in 2003, she served as the assistant chief vehicle engineer for the Nissan Sentra and Nissan Quest. 

Later, Bailo was transferred to Nissan’s global headquarters in Japan as vehicle program director with responsibility for the profitability and product presence of Nissan’s SUV’s worldwide. She was also recovery program director through the financial crisis, reporting directly to the chief recovery officer, and supported measures to offset economic business plan financial risks during fiscal year 2009.

Bailo began her automotive career with General Motors’ Truck & Bus division, where she was in charge of truck durability testing and test development. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. 

Bailo is based in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Christina Selter, HerHighway’s Editor in Chief recently spent time with Carla Bailo discussing the need for more women in the automotive industry especially in research and development.  Here is what Carla had to say in this short video at the NAIAS.

Who have you mentored who did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started? 
The one person who drove me to a career in engineering was my high school Chemistry teacher (a female) who had 2 children in the engineering program at General Motors Institute.  She recognized by skills and discussed with me in earnest – she was right!

In my career, I had no “official” mentors, however I took every opportunity to learn from my management, ask questions, and listen to their advice of how to consistently improve my performance.  Being a mentor is very important to me and I’m currently mentoring about 5 people – this is the maximum I believe you can manage effectively.  I’ve taken this number of mentees for about the past 7 years – I learn as much from them as I hope they do from me.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car? 
I believe it’s hard to say that all women have the same favorites – I’m a real car girl which means I like strong acceleration, excellent handling, a thrilling, sporty ride.  Also, I need to be able to conduct business in the car which means quietness and excellent Bluetooth.  Lastly, I have a family, so I need a good family entertainment system – DVD, iPOD, etc.  So, it really depends on the female and the segment.  However, recurring themes are a place for my purse, storage for all the things I need to keep in the car, operation of controls with gloves, long nails, high heels.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
First, this has definitely gotten much better since I started in this industry.  Women’s voices are valued more than ever as women make 60% of the auto buying decisions!  Certain facets of the business are more adaptable, but the engineering and sales side is tough due to the “manner” in which these businesses are run.  Women are hardwired differently than men – therefore the “manner” of conducting business does need to adapt for this new way.  In the end, it brings much more thoughtful decisions and better products for our customer – this is the winning point why we need more diversity in the auto business!

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
I was born and raised in Detroit and a car fanatic.  My father was in the tool & die business and automotive was in my blood.  Cars are in my DNA and there is nothing I enjoy more than taking a car from concept to production.

First automotive job?
GM Truck & Bus – Heavy duty truck durability testing.

Proudest professional achievement?
I am most proud of seeing people that I hired and/or mentored succeed in their careers.  Beyond this, I was awarded the Chairmans award from Mr. Ghosn in 2010 for my role in the recovery committee and the huge impact our team delivered to manage the Lehman shock.

Current challenge at work?
We are receiving a tremendous amount of work from our engineering HQ in Japan as we shift more work to the regions.  Further, we are expanding our role to include much more advanced development and technology development which means our engineering workforce complexion will change.  We need to attract and retain excellent engineering talent in the Detroit area.

Dream job?
I already have it….then someday I’d like to own/operate a winery.

What sports or activities did you enjoy in school or/and currently?
Volleyball, debate.

What you do to relax?
Jogging, walking, snow skiing, and lots of crossword puzzles/Sudoku!