"Since the invention of the automobile, women have played an important role – if not as driver, then as passengers and influentials – in the decision as to which car to buy."
Carrie L.P. Gray was a trailblazer who recognized the influence and power of women in the automotive industry. Gray began her work as an engineer, but expanded her expertise to finance, marketing, and law. From 1970 to 1992, she held various engineering, development, planning, and marketing positions for automotive giants Ford and Chrysler.
As Gray’s career touched the breadth of car design and sales, she identified a significant blind-spot in the industry—cars were not designed for or marketed to women. In 1978, she developed an innovative marketing and design evaluation program at Chrysler. Gray’s new Women’s Passenger Car Committee sought to break down the pervasive myth that cars were for men.
Gray, who was 28 years old at the time, chaired the committee of 13 diverse women from across the company. They researched the functions and features women really wanted and used data to identify women’s actual buying practices. It turned out women were savvy consumers who wanted more from cars than a pink interior!
Gray’s committee found that women shopped when they were ready to buy a car, whereas it took multiple visits for the average man to commit to a vehicle. “But some salesmen don’t think of [women] as serious buyers,” Gray said, “and by doing so they are missing a sale.” The committee also identified women’s insecurities about entering an unwelcoming and male-dominated space and noted the lack of women selling cars.
Gray and her committee worked to reform marketing strategies to better target women buyers. Chrysler also incorporated suggestions for physical changes into the Chrysler K-platform cars, specifically in the Aries and Reliant 1980s models.
In 1980, the Automotive Hall of Fame honored Gray’s ground-breaking contributions with its inaugural Young Leadership & Excellence Award. After receiving her award, Gray continued her work at Chrysler to make cars and car-buying more accessible to women.
During her time in the auto industry, Gray completed an MBA in finance and marketing from the University of Detroit. She also earned her law degree from the Detroit College of Law (currently Michigan State University College of Law). In 1992, she left Chrysler to work in private legal practice, where she specialized in corporate and technical law.
In 2000, Gray returned to the auto industry when she joined American Axle and Manufacturing as their Director of Corporate Relations. She served as the company’s spokesperson until her retirement. Gray then worked as an elder law attorney in the Detroit area. She died on July 18, 2020.
Born in Detroit, Michigan
Graduates from Detroit Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science’s in chemistry and math. Starts to work for Ford Motor Company in Engineering, Research and Development
Becomes the Materials’ Engineer for the Body Engineering Office
Graduates from University of Detroit with an MBA in finance and marketing
Starts at Chrysler Corporation as a Senior Mid-Size Car Product Planner and formed the Women’s Passenger Car Committee
Honored by the Automotive Hall of Fame with the first Young Leadership and Excellence Award
Named to the Detroit City Budget Commission
Named one of America’s Top 100 Black Business and Professional Women by Dollars and Cents Magazine
Enters private legal practice specializing in corporate and technical law
Joins American Axle and Manufacturing as Director of Corporate Relations
Promoted to Director, Marketing and Corporate Relations
Carrie Gray passed away