The day before her 22nd birthday, Kristin Slanina drove a 20-foot U-Haul truck from downtown Boston in rush hour traffic to Albany, NY.

In it, she was transporting the solar car she and her fellow MIT engineering students built to compete in the American Tour de Sol, a 5-day solar car race. Facing unimaginable stress as the person responsible for getting the vehicle and her teammates to the race only foreshadowed the tenacity she would need in the heat of competition. 

Currently, Kristin is the COO of TrueCar, an online portal for car-buying consumers and a network of 15K certified dealers. During the highly competitive recruiting process, she was referred to as the “purple squirrel” for her unique pedigree as a core engine engineer, future of mobility expert, consumer-fulfillment strategist, and savvy business leader. Leading the newly formed Solutions Group, Kristin is a catalyst for accelerating the company into its next growth phase.

In a prior role as Chief Transformation Officer of Thirdware, an IT consulting firm, she led the Emerging Technology group and paved the way for Thirdware’s status as a Tier 1 partner with Ford and other OEMs on vehicle software development, machine learning, and blockchain technology.

Enticed by her unique background in automotive and digital innovation, she was wooed by EY to create and develop their global mobility practice, advising clients on the future of mobility and smart cities. As the new Executive Director of Automotive & Transportation Mobility, she secured multimillion-dollar funding to develop the Tesseract (blockchain) platform. Integrating blockchain innovation, automotive ecosystems, and strategic operational frameworks, Kristin defined and scaled EY’s future of mobility business model skyrocketing revenue from $0 to $20M globally in the first year.

Following 2 decades of success at Ford, Kristin’s reputation as a mobility expert attracted other automotive giants and business leaders. Intrigued by Chrysler’s opportunity to head and restructure its fuel economy/greenhouse gas and propulsion strategy, she accepted the challenge as Director of Strategy and Planning. Within 2 years, she delivered 5 strategic direction plans and actualized a 10% savings in fuel economy with a 50% reduction in launch costs.

With 10 years of core engine experience and many promotions within the Ford ecosystem, her proven leadership skills and unbridled enthusiasm put her in the spotlight as the architect of Ford’s Future of Mobility blueprint. With a mission to shape Ford’s strategic response to societal, environmental, and economic challenges, Kristin built a global enterprise team, forged collaborations with technology leaders (IBM, Intel, Apple, and Google), and engaged academic partners (MIT, University of Michigan, and Stanford). Her leadership efforts culminated in Ford’s Smart Mobility initiative announced at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show by Ford’s CEO.

While an MIT graduate student, she completed an internship program at Digital Equipment, culminating in a master’s thesis in Tribology. Upon graduation, she was hired by Ford as a powertrain engineer, where she completed 2 years in the prestigious Ford Engine College Graduate Program. An exciting opportunity led her to Ford’s Cologne Engineering facility, where she was promoted as the first female engineer in Ford of Germany. Immersing herself in the culture, she became semi-fluent in German and earned distinction as the first woman on the all-male company soccer league.

Widely recognized as an industry expert and thought leader, Kristin is a sought-after spokesperson and leading authority on the future of mobility, connected and autonomous vehicles, and smart city initiatives. She is quoted and often featured in global and renowned media outlets. In 2016, she was named as one of “60 Who are Steering Self-Driving Vehicles” by Automotive News.

Kristin embraces her rarity as a woman in a male-dominated culture and credits her feminine strengths for her success—she is an intuitive communicator and an innate people person. Kristin is a champion who supports women at all career levels, having voluntarily mentored hundreds of women throughout her career. She serves on the Michigan Council of Women in Technology’s (MCWT) mentoring committee, MIT’s Alumni Board, and is a member of Inforum and the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF).

On the first day of the race, Kristin was expecting to watch and learn from the other co-captain before having her turn at the wheel. Instead, due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to drive on Day 1. She accepted the challenge with some apprehension knowing the team’s success was riding on her. Enduring great stress caused by limited physical space, soaring temperatures, and a broken communications system, she persevered and finished the race with time on the clock to spare. Served well by her tenacity, she brought her team to victory and earned distinction as a leader.

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