Chris Barman Vehicle Line Executive Chrysler>

Chris Barman was appointed Vehicle Line Executive – E-Segment Vehicles, Chrysler Group LLC in June 2009, with full responsibility for current and future planning, engineering, development and launch management of all Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger product programs.

HerHighway’s Editor in Chief Christina Selter interviewed Chris Barman regarding how we can bring more women into the automotive industry and the importance of mentoring.

Who have you mentored who did someone mentor you in this industry to help you get started?
I have been fortunate to have a number of mentors throughout my life which have enabled me to be successful. My grandfather and parents instilled a strong work ethic and the need to have a sense of pride in everything you do. My high school basketball coach provided the experience of leadership and teamwork. And from the start of my career in the automotive industry, I have had numerous mentors who have greatly influenced and assisted me.

I now have the opportunity to mentor others and do so through organized programs with new college graduates, along with Women’s Forum members and the Engineering Mentoring program here at Chrysler Group. However, organic mentoring and career development can be just as powerful. And to make sure these, young, talented and energetic individuals have the opportunity to express their ideas and career goals, I have an open-door policy to meet with anyone who seeks me out for mentoring and career development guidance.

As a woman what features are your favorites in a car?
A great portion of my career has been dedicated to active-safety systems that assist drivers in accident avoidance. Active safety and driver assistance features such as electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross path detection and blind spot monitoring are powerful technologies that have even saved my hide more than once – so I have a true appreciation for their benefits. Anyone who is purchasing a vehicle should seriously consider making these features as part of the purchase.

Why does the auto industry seem like a difficult environment for females?
I believe it is all in perceptions and perspectives. The automotive industry is highly competitive and provides challenges to all who work in the industry. However, if those challenges are viewed as opportunities to contribute to the team — and also grow both personally and professionally — it is a very rewarding place to work.

Why did you want to work in the auto industry?
I was intrigued by the complexity and ever changing competitive environment of the auto industry. Also, everyone has an opinion about some vehicle or experience they have encountered – so, you can always strike up a meaningful conversation and learn a new perspective about the product you produce.

First automotive job?
Summer internship with Inland Fisher Guide. I worked in the materials lab and enjoyed the opportunity to use problem solving skills. In a subsequent internship, I worked at Chrysler on the air conditioning system for the Dodge Viper. If that doesn’t sink the hook, I don’t know what would. I hired into the Chrysler Institute of Engineering program after finishing my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and have been with Chrysler my entire career.

Proudest professional achievement?
Launching the all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger vehicle programs. A couple years back, there was a lot of doubt if Chrysler Group had the product know-how and quality-focus to deliver competitive vehicles. And the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger helped change the company’s perception and revealed the drive, ambition and energy that this company and its employees have to deliver competitive world-class products.

In addition, I have been fortunate to work with and lead a talented team to launch these outstanding sedans, and our efforts are being recognized as such through independent awards such as the all-new Dodge Charger receiving the JD Power APEAL award and the all-new Chrysler 300 being named to Kelly Blue Book list of Top 10 Family Cars and recently praised by Consumer Reports as the best Chrysler sedan they’ve evaluated in decades, scoring an “excellent” on their overall road-test score.

Current challenge at work?
Although we have just launched the all-new Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 this year, it’s a never ending challenge to design and develop new features and vehicle improvements to make our sedans even more competitive and compelling in the marketplace.

For example, we just launch a new eight-speed transmission on the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 with the powerful and efficient Pentastar V-6 engine. These vehicles now achieve best-in-class fuel economy ratings with an EPA estimated 19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway label. For even more style, we have expanded the Chrysler 300 lineup with the addition of the athletic-styled 300S, and delivered even more luxury appointments and premium features with the new 300 Luxury Series.

What sports or activities did you enjoy in school or/and currently?
Playing basketball and home improvement projects.

Dream job?
A: With a wonderful family and responsibility for such exciting products, I have a dream job.

What you do to relax?
A: Spend time with my family. My husband, daughter and son also have active lifestyles, so we are often at sporting events or engaged in other activities. I also enjoy running, biking and playing basketball.