Carla Bailo | President and CEO | Center for Automotive Research

Carla Bailo: Inspiring Business Leader Paving the Way for Women in Automotive

Learning is a process that has no end. It starts with a choice and continues through one’ s lifelong journey. For business leaders, it starts with the first day they choose to join the corporate world and grows with each new experience, challenge, and achievement. Learning through experience has been an essential trait for business leader Carla Bailo, a leader in engineering and vehicle program management with 35 years of experience in the automotive industry.

As the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) President and CEO, Carla leads the overall mission, manages the day-to-day business, and is the face for CAR within the automotive industry.

CAR is an independent, non-profit research organization respected for its unbiased research on issues related to AV’ s (automated vehicles), light weighting and materials research, propulsion, and electrification, and business/government economic impacts on the automotive industry.

Excellent Work Profile

Before joining CAR, Carla was The Ohio State’ s assistant vice president for mobility research and business development. In this role, she implemented the university’ s sustainable mobility and transportation innovation, while integrating related research and education across Ohio State’ s academic units. She also led Ohio State’ s involvement as the primary research partner for Smart Columbus, a $140 million program to transform central Ohio into the nation’ s premier transportation innovation region.

Carla was the 2016-2018 vice president of automotive for SAE International, a global association of more than 138,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries. She has 35 years’ experience in the automotive industry, with 25 years at Nissan.

In her most recent role at Nissan, she served as senior vice president of research and development for Nissan North America, Inc. Carla was responsible for vehicle engineering and development operations in Michigan, Arizona, Mexico, and Brazil, managing a $500 million budget and 2,500 employees. In this role, she improved the efficiency of Nissan’ s R&D functions.

A Corporate leader and Granny at Home

Throughout her career, Carla has found that both work and life are connected and cannot be separated, as both sides require equal attention. She is mother to 4 children and grandmother to 3, soon to be 4, grandchildren. She asserts, “I am not a believer that you can’ t completely keep these lives separate, nor should they be. I want to know the outsides lives of my teammates and vice versa so that we can have keen emotional intelligence in the office.” Everyone needs to be aware of sensitivities (without prying) that may impact employee behaviour and/or deliverables.  She believes one needs to be satisfied with both professional and personal lives to be “on” in both areas. She also says, “you need to be engaged in both when in their respective elements.  When home, devote time to your family. When at work, devote time to work. Keep boundaries, when appropriate, so that your family knows they are the most important element of your life.”

Grow in a Challenging Situation

During Carla’ s career, there have been many lifechanging events and experiences, but most profound was overseas moves and job roles. She explained, “It makes you see yourself completely different when you move to a country where you don’ t speak the language and sometimes can’ t read the alphabet.  It’ s very humbling when you feel like a child again, and it boosts your inner stamina.  It also makes you think differently about the global world and become more empathetic/understanding of other cultures.  “It’ s not bad; it’ s just different” became our motto.”

Further, taking a job outside of one’ s comfort zone which requires that one again becomes humble to understand “what this function does,” develops leadership and understanding of the total organization.  As a leader, one can’ t take charge when entering a new unknown area of the company but must work to gain respect at first, which means listening, asking questions, and learning.  Again, humbling and defining.

Connecting to Evolve

To make employees resourceful and more approachable toward their job, Carla always seeks to find the core competencies of each person and what energizes them. She feels “we can’ t fit, nor should we fit a person to a role that doesn’ t fit their best capabilities.  You need to know them as a person in terms of how to motivate, how to explain, how to request work as each person responds differently.”

A Note for Emerging Entrepreneurs

As technology is disrupting every business sector, Carla explains that “we are in an era of exponential technological growth.  It is vital to stay abreast of technology and continually apply it to your business.  It is the same for high-tech and mom and pop ventures. This is the best time to be an entrepreneur.  There are so many new business models that are emerging and can be exploited. One needs to be ready to fail, not all ideas are good business ideas, move on quickly, surround yourself with good people with a similar vision, and tenacity.”

According to Carla, the best leadership traits are “listening, number one, always.  Humbleness is at the top of the list as well.  Armed with these and realizing you are a servant or conduit to the team will lead to a great team.”