Winners 2023

Operations 2023

HARRALL’S DEGREE IN business management included a year spent in BMW’s marketing department, which led to a full-time job at the brand after she graduated in 2019. Since then, she has risen quickly, first securing the role of product manager responsible for BMW and Mini launches in Ireland and then moving to the position of retailer performance manager, overseeing 39 Mini outlets in the UK. This February, Harrall was promoted again, to a senior role with responsibility for steering the regional strategy of the Mini brand in the UK. One key job she has here is to help transform Mini’s retail model from wholesaling cars to dealers to selling directly to customers – a significant change. On top of this, Harrall has just started a part-time MBA at Imperial College London, for which she has won the Imperial Women’s Scholarship. She says she’s targeting a role in another market with BMW within the next five years, a key move for rising stars within the global automotive industry.

Operations 2023 nominees

Hayley Bovill, Operations and sales programme manager, Assurant

BOVILL WAS PROMOTED in June last year within the warranty and insurance company to manage new initiatives to boost the company’s European automotive division after rising through the ranks of the Warranty Group, which was bought by Assurant in 2018. She won praise for her work in cutting the cost of warranty claims by 13% over six months amid an inflationary rise in prices. She successfully redrew contracts “across a substantial number of repairers in a very short timeframe”, according to Simon Franklin, head of European sales operations.

Rachael Cannings, Strategic partnership manager, Lotus Cars

AT LOTUS, CANNINGS manages communications, marketing, external partnerships, strategic business planning and contract development for the Lotus Engineering Consultancy business. She joined Group Lotus in 2021 from Centrica, where she managed partnerships for the company’s EV and mobility activities after getting her automotive break by winning acceptance on Nissan’s graduate programme in 2015. “Over the last 12 months Rachael’s diligence, professionalism and tenacity has been pivotal to the resurgence of Lotus Engineering,” her nomination said.

Alice Charity, Senior controller inbound parts operational logistics, Nissan

CHARITY HAS HAD her first taste of leadership following her 2022 promotion to section manager, overseeing the delivery of parts into Nissan’s Sunderland plant. She stepped up after returning from a year’s secondment with Renault in France, where she worked on logistics costing. Charity has won plaudits for handling a multitude of recent issues, such as two significant cyber attacks hitting suppliers, the semiconductor shortage and shipping constraints stemming from staff shortages and strikes. “She is a joy to have in the team,” wrote Jennifer Lloyd, Nissan’s HR business partner, in her nomination.

Samantha Davis, Senior manager, network skills, Toyota GB

DAVIS’S RECENT PROMOTION means she is now part of the senior management team tasked with improving Toyota’s dealer network. She oversees a budget of £1.1 million and last year was responsible for delivering 1385 training days across 992 courses to 9147 people. She put in place an online portal to enable the dealer network to see the training status of its staff, improving efficiency and increasing engagement. She also set up an online query system, which frees up the team to do more productive tasks.

Annalise Eldred, Head of customer contact centres, Lookers

ON BEING PROMOTED last year, Eldred went from managing a team of 12 overseeing the Ford-specific contact centre to covering all seven Lookers contact centres with more than 200 advisors. She started at the dealership group in the showroom selling new cars, becoming first the top Lookers Ford salesperson and then in 2017 winning sales executive of the year across all of Lookers, the first woman to do so. She switched to her management role two years later and last year won an Inspiring Automotive Women award run by the Automotive 30% Club.

Philippa Green, Launch QSP engineer, BMW UK

GREEN JOINED BMW’S Oxford factory in 2012 as an engineering apprentice technician and is currently working on ensuring the quality is right on electric/electronic (E/E) systems on Minis made in the plant. She recently won plaudits for leading a project to duplicate wiring harness production after supply was severely curtailed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She achieved that in three months, which is a “shining example of her ability to quickly grasp complex topics”, wrote Caroline Warn, group leader for process, change and accounts management at BMW, in her nomination.

Laura Hewitt, Interim senior operations manager (logistics), McLaren Automotive

HEWITT IS CURRENTLY overseeing McLaren Automotive’s entire logistics operations department on an interim basis while a vacancy is being filled. “She has taken to it with absolute maturity and professionalism”, according to Bradley Woods, head of logistics, in nominating her. She was promoted to logistics operations shift manager in 2021 after excelling as a group leader of a team of 25 people overseeing inbound parts. Hewitt’s significant achievements include implementing a new parts picking process in the rework area, cutting headcount by 75% and bringing in a new method for assembly works to select accessories.

Emma Hill, Manager, Ford Pro Europe strategy and business transformation, Ford Motor Company

HILL’S VISIBILITY WITHIN the Ford Pro commercial division lifted significantly when she was asked in October to cover as chief of staff to division head Hans Schep for six months following a sudden resignation. Hill joined Ford on its graduate scheme in 2008 as an accounting analyst and has used her financial skills to move swiftly through the ranks to her current role of implementing Ford Pro strategy, including leveraging data from connected vehicles to deliver insights to business customers.

Gina Jackson, Head of Car Store Direct, Pendragon

JACKSON GAINED HER current job of overseeing the car-buying element of Pendragon’s used car brand after impressing at dealer group JCT600 – working as group finance renewals manager – where she rolled out a new customer relationship management process to more than 50 dealerships. In her latest role of overseeing a new venture for Pendragon, she’s in charge of developing a network of ‘pods’ where customers can sell their car, with 14 already opened.

Lyndsay Kelly, Senior controller – outbound logistics, Nissan

THE ABILITY THAT Kelly displayed while overseeing the team managing the outbound flow of vehicles from the Sunderland plant has resulted in her being put forward for the Nissan Talent Programme, for which she has already passed the interview process. She joined the logistics control department in 2015 on a graduate scheme and has since been promoted to senior controller. Her job has been crucial over the past few months as ships have been delayed due to storms, breakdowns, strikes and port congestion. Despite this, “we have hit our targets and Lyndsay has had a direct result on this”, wrote Jennifer Lloyd, Nissan’s HR business partner, in her nomination. 

Vera Lembke, Senior manager, FP&A commercial finance, Ineos Automotive

IN AUGUST 2022, Lembke was promoted to oversee the group financial planning and analysis division responsible for overall budgeting for this start-up car company. She was appointed to her role after shaping the very first commercial finance function within the company by providing financial models that supported strategy decisions, such as when to launch models and where to establish the dealer network. She has also helped to develop global pricing, as well as the financial and sales operations.

Kerry Livesey, Regional operations manager – Premium, Stellantis Premium

LIVESEY MOVED IN February to this key role, where she oversees the operations of dealers selling Stellantis premium brands Alfa Romeo and DS Automobiles. She achieved her promotion following eight years of rising through the ranks of Citroën and Peugeot’s UK press office, finishing as head of communications for Peugeot 10 years after starting as a graduate. Despite her relatively recent move, “she is quickly building her knowledge of the commercial arena and is already a key member of the team”, according to her nomination from Stellantis communications director Jeremy Townsend.

Julia Macfarlane, Business leader, Quick Release

MACFARLANE IS APPLYING more than 16 years of experience in the automotive industry to help car companies at this management consultancy, which analyses product data to speed up client programmes. She has worked at companies as diverse as Williams Advanced Engineering, Dyson, leather supplier Bridge of Weir and Rivian, before joining Quick Release in 2022. “Having experience at one OEM, two start-up OEMs and many tier one, two and three companies, I feel I’m in a good position to be able to support our clients,” Macfarlane wrote in her nomination.

Carol McGarry, Dealership accountant, Audi, Lookers

MCGARRY HAS RISEN through the ranks of dealership accountancy after becoming inspired while working as a part-time cleaner in a local garage in 2007. She graduated with an accounting degree in 2018 and joined Evans Halshaw as an accounting assistant the year before she became a full-time trainee accountant in 2019 for Peter Vardy. She took her most recent step to become an Audi dealership accountant with Lookers in 2020, overseeing the day-to-day running of the accounts and vehicle administration departments.

Charlotte Munday, Key account manager, Alphera Financial Services

MUNDAY’S CURRENT ROLE is to oversee the running of both Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Financial Services and Aston Martin Financial Services in the south of the UK. She joined this BMW-owned financial division in 2019 from another arm of BMW finance and has since been promoted to oversee the premium accounts, regularly hitting her targets for both Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin despite the recent rises in interest rates. She also holds organised training events for both networks to bring them up to speed on the finance needs of the very rich.

Alison Nuttall, Head of operations sustainability office, JLR

NUTTALL WAS ELEVATED to her “dream job” to head operations at JLR’s newly formed sustainability office in 2022 after plotting a career path at the company that started back in 2011.  Nuttall won recognition in efficiency- focused engineering roles before  moving into sustainability full time. In 2022, she completed an MSc in sustainable development, an achievement that “took determination and sacrifice”, wrote Neil Hewitt, JLR’s sustainability operations manager, in her nomination.

Jess O’Hara, Manager, commercial development, Lexus UK

O’HARA HAS RECEIVED four promotions at Toyota UK since joining on the graduate scheme in 2017. She impressed enough during that time to gain a full-time job working on market research for both customers and dealers, and in January this year secured her first management position at Lexus. In this newly created role, she works across Toyota’s premium brand to overhaul practices in the dealer network and business divisions to the point where the new methods become second nature. Josh Bates, commercial and experience senior manager at Lexus UK, praised her “drive and ambition to explore different life experiences”.

Sarah Preston, Accessory lead, Aston Martin

PRESTON HAS “SINGLE-HANDEDLY realised the potential in the aftermarket accessory business at Aston Martin”, wrote Carl Bayliss, head of aftersales, in nominating her. Since taking on the role in 2018, she has built the strategy, created the operational plans and won support from Aston Martin’s global markets to press on, resulting in double-digit growth “all while working reduced hours and managing a young family”. She leads the product development of the accessories with R&D and engineering and also manages marketing communications globally to drive sales.

Janka Roder, Credit controller, Horiba MIRA

RODER HAS IMPRESSED everyone at the automotive testing company since joining in 2021 by overhauling the credit control area of the business, “leading to a complete culture change across the whole company”, according to her nomination. She took over the role from a previous incumbent who had held the position for more than 40 years and has modernised the process. She is currently working towards a chartership qualification with the Chartered Institute of Credit Management.

Sherie Willcock, Purchase to pay finance manager, Pendragon

WILLCOCK JOINED PENDRAGON 13 years ago as a call handler at the age of 18 and has undergone an impressive rise on the finance side. That included promotion to finance hub leader and on to her current role, in which she shifted the business from manual invoice processing, which took around one minute per invoice, to the ability to process hundreds in the same time. Now, two-thirds of all invoices move through a ‘touchless’ process. She also won praise for recruiting and training a new team that had grown from 10 people to 60 in time to deliver a transformation project just as Covid hit.

Kennedy Spaxman, finance controller, Lotus Cars

SPAXMAN LEADS THE business transformation of Lotus Advanced Performance, the brand’s bespoke tuning arm, as well ensuring other projects at the company’s Norwich sports car base are financially viable. She joined the company in 2016 as assistant accountant and has been promoted five times since.

“Making business equations work for performance cars is hard, yet Kennedy makes it look easy,” wrote Owen Lloyd, head of product definition at Group Lotus, on her nomination.