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Automotive News names three Nissan executives to “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry”

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List recognizes influential women at the forefront of automotive

NASHVILLE, Tenn. November 10, 2020; Automotive News has released its 2020 class of “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry” and has recognized Nissan executives Sonia Rief, Judy Wheeler and Allyson Witherspoon. Compiled every five years since 2000, the list spotlights female leaders in the automotive field who have significant influence and are major decision-makers within their organization. Honorees were recognized last night during an exclusive, virtual event.

“Nissan celebrates the accomplishments of Sonia, Judy and Allyson, who are redefining what senior leadership looks like in the automotive industry,” said Jérémie Papin, vice chairman, Nissan North America. “All three executives are strong advocates for expanding opportunities for women pursuing STEAM careers and are excellent role models inspiring the next generation of leaders.”

Sonia Rief, vice president, Vehicle Connected Services & Program Management Office, Nissan Americas, is responsible for managing vehicle line profitability and leading Nissan’s Connected Services organization, including planning, delivery, marketing and operations for internal and external customer content.

Sonia came to the automotive industry through her passion for racing. She got involved with her engineering school’s Legends racing team that led her into autocross and road track events with her personal car – and she hasn’t looked back since. Sonia is a champion of women in engineering and technology and makes it a key focus in her role at Nissan. She also is an informal life coach for many employees. Sonia often poses a question a key sponsor once asked her, “Who is going to hold your hand in the end?” It’s a great reminder to check back on priorities and measure the tradeoffs when balancing personal and professional decisions. This is Sonia’s second time as an honoree on the Automotive News “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry” list.

Judy Wheeler, division vice president, Nissan Sales & Regional Operations for the U.S., is responsible for the field sales organization and leading sales operations, distribution, fleet and certified pre-owned sales.

Judy has worn many hats throughout her career – from sales and service, to marketing and communications, to international sales and business development. That equates to 14 physical moves and 27 positions over 36 years. Lacking a formal mentor during her professional career, Judy has made it her priority over the past 20+ years to dedicate time to serve as a mentor. Judy has established her own formal mentorship program at each location where she’s worked, and has mentored more than 2,000 team members.

She is also an executive sponsor of Nissan’s Women Business Synergy Team supporting female employee professional growth and development as well as business initiatives and community activities. She also has won an Executive Leadership award and has been recognized by the Diversity MBA "Top 100 under 50" as well as being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Achievement.

Allyson Witherspoon, vice president and Chief Marketing Officer, Nissan U.S., is responsible for marketing communications and media, data innovation and customer experience, enhancing brand value, customer trust and insights, and brand and product marketing.

Interested in cars and design at an early age, Allyson has spent her entire career in the automotive sector. As a female executive in a male-dominated industry, she’s made it her mission to champion other women in their quest for unconventional career paths. Allyson’s international roles in Japan and Amsterdam, Netherlands, have provided her unique experiences such as being in Saudi Arabia on behalf of Nissan the week that women there won the right to drive in 2017. Allyson participates in Adweek’s Executive Mentor Program and serves on several boards/councils, including Brand Innovators and Influence Council. Allyson has been named a Top 40 under 40 by Automotive News for her experience and leadership, and earlier this year was recognized as a Female Frontier for breaking brand barriers by Campaign US.

More information on Automotive News’ “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry,” is available here.