How a Vintage Volvo and Star Mechanic Bogi Lateiner Are Empowering Women and Changing Automotive

Bogi Lateiner Featured Image

And you’ll be able to see for yourself soon.

The recently-held Global Women’s Summit brought top female leaders from around the world who are driving change, empowering women and shaping the world, from government and politics, sports media, and the arts, to share their voices and their stories.

Also on the stage was mechanic Bogi Lateiner.

Bogi spoke on the topic of Accelerating Opportunity: Women and the Automotive Industry. “I was at the summit speaking on a panel on behalf of Volvo, sharing my story and views of bringing more women into the automotive trades. I also took the opportunity to bring up the issue of women in the automotive trades that is really a part of a much bigger issue of the shortage of trades folks in general, and how the effect of that shortage will soon start to be felt on a global level by everyone,” she said.

That means that if more women don’t seek careers in automotive, the industry will be especially hard hit. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, only nine percent of automotive repair and maintenance positions are held by women, compared to the average gender split of 46 percent women employed in other industries.

Bogi’s Passion Answers the Industry’s Conundrum

This is where Bogi’s most recent project is squarely centered: In empowering women to realize the opportunities open to them. In conjunction with Volvo, Bogi and her Girl Gang Garage team accomplished the unthinkable: they rebuilt a vintage Volvo and powered it with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain.

Dubbed “Iron Maven,” the build was accomplished by Bogi’s team of professional mechanics from Girl Gang Garage as well as a group of novices who were learning as they went. And it all took place in public view at the SEMA show, in front of colleagues, consumers and the industry.

Related: This Group of Women, Led by Celebrity Mechanic Bogi Lateiner, Re-Built A Vintage Volvo As a Plug-In Electric Hybrid

The Girl Gang Garage Group At Work On The Iron Maven. Photo: Kristin Shaw

The Girl Gang Garage group at work on the Iron Maven. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Novices + Pros Together Accomplish the Incredible

A build like the Iron Maven, combining vintage design and new technology, involves some trial and error. For Bogi, the process of learning and failing are fun, but she also felt the pressure of putting these women in the spotlight. “Some of the most fun days are ones where none of us know how to do something and we have “science day” or “experiment day” at the shop, and we literally are testing and playing and failing until we figure it out – collectively and in a safe space. It’s the best, but with a deadline, it’s difficult to indulge.

“I also take very seriously how the builds will be perceived. I’m aware of the fact that its potentially dangerous to take on such an audacious build on a public stage, while making a huge deal about it being female-only. If it isn’t successful, doesn’t look good, or doesn’t run, I could potentially do more harm for women in the trades than good. So, while intellectually I believe that it’s important to acknowledge publicly that no one is perfect, and no build is perfect, and I believe in celebrating our learning opportunities, I also know that women are often judged more harshly in this industry than men are,” she said.

“If it doesn’t look amazing, people won’t even stop to hear or learn that close to 30 percent of the women who built it had never worked on cars before, nor would we get to accomplish the purpose of changing hearts and minds and increasing conversation about women in the trades. All of this leads to lots and lots of sleepless nights, as does the challenge of time and money; these builds put a huge strain on me financially—in fact, every spare penny I have goes into them.”

Related: I Was a Guest in Bogi Lateiner’s Girl Gang Garage

Iron Maven, and Bogi, Will Be coming to a Stage Near You

“I was blown away by the Iron Maven,” enthused Russell Datz, Head of Media Relations at Volvo Cars USA. “This was no resto-mod. It was a heart/lung transplant. To cut the chassis, running gear and entire electrical system out of a fully modern plug-in hybrid like the S60 Recharge and implant it in a 60-year-old car that is two-thirds its size is nothing short of incredible, even for the most skilled builders, engineers and artists,” he said. To show off the incredible accomplishment of this project, Volvo is taking it on tour. “The car and Bogi will now be on the road for the next 12 months. There are women on Bogi’s team who would be great assets to any custom shop, auto repair or collision business – and they should call her right away,” Russell told us.

Bogi and Volvo will take the Iron Maven to various car shows, women’s events and other events in 2023 “where we can reach both young women and also the parents and influencers in children’s lives, in an attempt to increase conversation around women in the trades and attract more young women into exploring these trades,” Bogi said.

Related: Jessi Combs Foundation Awards $30,000 To Women Pursuing Automotive Trades

Bogi Lateiner Teaches Kristin Shaw And Porsha Conrad

Bogi Lateiner teaches Kristin Shaw and Porsha Conrad. Photo: Kristin Shaw

Bogi’s in This for the Long Haul

“I also am working on doing some consulting with Volvo. They have taken the issues I’ve brought to them very seriously and are taking action. Since I brought them the Iron Maven project, they created a Female Technician Forum and have now held it twice, gathering all their female techs for training, career development, personal growth, but most importantly networking and connection, which I believe is one of the most important factors in retaining all the new female talent that we are working so hard to attract. Since I spoke at the conference and challenged them from the stage, they have initiated a uniform redesign that is under way, including new uniforms for women that actually fit– and the list goes on. They’re really trying and have increased the number of female technicians dramatically  – like 4x!”

“As we look toward the next decade, the automotive industry will see new technologies, embrace electrification, transform its approach to manufacturing and find innovative ways to connect with customers,” said Anders Gustafsson, Senior Vice President at Volvo Car Americas and President and CEO of Volvo Car USA. “With these advancements, one of our biggest challenges will be developing a strong, diverse talent pipeline and an inclusive culture to support this transformation. Investing in programs that grow female and minority representation in automotive is critical to the future of our business at Volvo Cars, and the future of the automotive industry at large.”

“These days are just a teaser for what we will experience when there are no techs to fix the things that make our world go round,” Bogi said. “We need a societal shift towards valuing the trades and trade schools as equally respectable careers to white collar jobs and four-year degrees.”

Volvo Cars is also looking to increase the number of its female service technicians and is dedicated to increasing the number of female technicians within its retail network through accelerated training programs for current automotive technicians, recent graduates and military veterans. The company offers a series of development programs, scholarships, partnerships and more at training centers across the US. This includes a 50/50 Gender Neutral Leadership Commitment in recruitment and promotion to leadership positions, as well as a larger focus on supporting the company’s transition to a fully electrified lineup of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.

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