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Chicago Auto Show’s What Drives Her Award Winners Announced

Chicago Auto Show organizers, in partnership with A Girls Guide to Cars, held the seventh annual What Drives Her program during the show’s Media Preview on Thursday, Feb. 8. Industry leaders from across the country came together for a robust discussion and award recognition ceremony to highlight women in four different categories: Industry Trailblazer, Best in Craft Media, Automotive Ally and Best Retailer. This year’s awards also recognized an industry leader who has lifted others up with the 2024 Lifetime of Inspiration award. The program gives industry leaders a stage to share trends, stories and personal anecdotes of the integral role that women hold in the auto industry.

This year’s program, presented by Nissan and sponsored by CDK Global, brought female executives to the Chicago Auto Show stage presenting research centered on female purchasing power and trends. The panel, titled “What Drives Her…To Buy a Car,” was moderated by Kathy Gilbert, senior director minority dealer and women retail, CDK Global. Panelists included Amy Emmatty, CRO, Productions Plus; Trudy Hardy, vice president and region Americas head, BMW Motorrad; and Trisha Jung, senior director for EV strategy and transformation, Nissan.

“It’s humbling to see just how What Drives Her has become a cornerstone event of the Chicago Auto Show’s Media Preview,” said Jennifer Morand, co-founder of the What Drives Her program and general manager of the Chicago Auto Show. “To see women – and men – come together in support of the extraordinary females who are shaping our industry and driving change has been incredible.”

The 2024 winners for each category are as follows:

Industry Trailblazer Award
Olabisi Boyle, vice president, product planning and mobility strategy, Hyundai Motors, is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of Hyundai’s U.S. vehicle lineup, leading long-range planning, and overseeing market research, business analytics and advanced pricing. In just three years, Boyle has made a huge impact on Hyundai’s success and direction, including leading the expansion of Hyundai vehicles into the Tesla charging network by 2024, as well as pioneering the Hyundai home initiative, launching the Evolve+ EV subscription program. She’s also received significant recognition throughout her career, including being named in Automobile News All-Star in 2023 and 2021 and being named as Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.

Boyle was unable to attend the event; colleague Tia Battle accepted the award on her behalf and shared a quote from Boyle: “Being a woman in a predominantly male industry can be a challenge. It is important to stay strong by ensuring you are built up and never puffed up. To be built up, do your homework. Make sure you are prepared and educated on the topic and work to persevere and remain resilient and positive in all these situations. Because once you’re built up, you’ll be able to allow your competence and your excellence to speak for you while going through any tough time.”

Industry Trailblazer finalists included: Ashwini Balasubramanian, general manager, advanced engineering, Harley Davidson Motor Company; Laurie Transou, chief program engineer, Ford Motor Company.

Best in Craft Media Award
Jill Ciminillo, automotive content creator, Rebelle Rally competitor, NACTOY juror, WWCOTY juror, launched her career in 2001 as the auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspaper. She soon began to write reviews with a female perspective and keen eye toward the interests of many general consumers, covering topics such as driving position, cargo space, vehicle amenities, and seat comfort. She went on to work for many other outlets including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and Sinclair broadcast group. Today, Ciminillo is the managing editor of Pickup Truck + SUV Talk and works with Consumer Guide Automotive, writing reviews and hosting podcasts and radio shows. Ciminillo was the first female president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). She is a Juror of the North American Car, Utility & Truck of the Year Awards (NACTOY) and the Juror of the Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY). A great significance is Ciminillo’s role as an early adopter of new technology and social media platforms, embracing Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as podcasting and TikTok.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of a lot of people,” said Ciminillo. “There were not a lot of us 20 years ago…all of these people who have supported me, I really appreciate it. If anybody out there needs help or advice, or needs anything from me, I definitely want to pay that forward, and I would like to help!”

Best in Craft Media finalists included: Abigail Bassett, freelance journalist and podcast host; Elana Scherr, senior features editor, Car and Driver.

Automotive Ally
Wendy Orthman, executive director marketing, Genesis Motor America
, has been a visionary throughout her two-decade career, cutting her teeth in marketing and PR at GM and FCA before breaking out at Nissan. She and her family moved to Japan in the middle of the pandemic, taking a leap of faith for Orthman's new job at Infiniti. Two years later they returned so she could move into her current position at Genesis. Orthman is both adored and successful is because she is force of nature. She knows how to push the envelope without ripping it to shreds, pursue new ways of working with the automotive journalism field and markets cars with style.

Orthman was unable to attend and sent a video message in her absence stating, “If it wasn't for the grace of the incredible pioneering women that were helping me along the way, to mentor, develop, and guide me, I would not be here today. So, it is definitely my life’s mission to make sure I am paying that back and paying it forward.”

Automotive Ally finalists included: Dean Case, communications consultant; Cheryl Thompson, founder, Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement.

Best Retailer
Gabrille Abinion, general manager, Fox Valley Volkswagen
, has always been driven and passionate following her father’s footsteps in the automotive industry. In 2017, Abinion joined her family’s auto group as an Operation Manager. This led to an opportunity to become the general manager of Fox Valley Buick GMC. It was at this time that she was introduced to General Motors (GM) Minority Dealer Development program through her Dealer 20 group and is now a member of the GM Dealer Development National Candidate Pool. In efforts to diversify her experience within the Auto Group’s portfolio, Abinion is now the General Manager of Fox Valley Volkswagen. She has helped her Volkswagen stores to set records and sales, as well as breaking the record for Service & Parts growth of all time, three-times in 2023.

“Thank you so much for this incredible honor,” said Abinion. “My dad was an immigrant from the Philippines when he came to this country. This changed everything for my family. Thank you so much for your support.”

Best Retailer finalists included: Amanda Pickett, BDC manager/finance manager, Advantage Chevrolet Bridgeview; Jennifer Tonelli, controller, Mike Anderson Chevrolet of Merrillville.

Lifetime of Inspiration
Dave Sloan, co-general manager, Chicago Auto Show; president, Chicago Automobile Trade Association
, is not just a name associated with the Chicago Auto Show; he is synonymous with dedication, leadership, and innovation. Sloan has been a driving force behind the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA) who produces the Chicago Auto Show. He has devoted over 30 years to the organization starting in 1993 as Executive Vice President and then in 2010 becoming the President and General Manager of the Chicago Auto Show. Under his guidance, the show has grown and evolved to be the premiere consumer auto show in the country. What sets Sloan apart is not just his professional accomplishments but the legacy of mentorship he leaves behind. It takes a special kind of leader to recognize the potential in others and Dave has surrounded himself with an incredible team over the years. As he was deciding on retiring, he identified Jen Morand to be his successor and has worked on transitioning with her over the past two years as co-presidents of the association and show. The CATA is grateful for his vision, as our industry still remains heavily male dominated. The CATA stands as one of the oldest associations in our industry, celebrating 120 years this year, to finally have its first female president – all thanks to Dave Sloan.

The What Drives Her program and award ceremony was live streamed, on the Chicago Auto Show Facebook page. The recording can be found here.

For more information on the 2024 Chicago Auto Show, please visit Media can visit for more information.

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