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General Motors Designer Inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame

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1955 Nash Metropolitan Convertible
1955 Nash Metropolitan Convertible
Photo: Greg Gjerdingen

On July 23, Helene Rother will be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. Rother, the first woman to achieve a career as an automotive designer, got her start at General Motors in 1943, after working for Marvel Comics as an illustrator.

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As part of the interior styling staff at GM in Detroit, Rother used her artist’s eye and training to choose fabrics and colors for the cabin’s upholstery. She offered her expertise on interior lighting and hardware for the car doors as well as how the seats should be designed and constructed.

Just four years later in 1947, Rother created her own design studio, Helene Rother Associates. It was located in the Fisher Building. Here, she focused her artistic efforts on furniture, car interiors, and stained glass windows.

From 1948 through 1956, Rother collaborated with Nash Motors as an independent designer. Rother also designed jewelry, fashion, and the interior of hearses for Miller-Meteor.

Throughout her career, she was a driving force for improving the material quality of car interiors, publishing a technical paper with the Society of Automotive Engineers in 1948, as well as participating in SAE conferences.

Rother, a German native, was born in 1908, and relocated to New York City in 1941 after she and her daughter escaped Nazi-occupied France and were released from a refugee camp in northern Africa. She died in 1999.

Posted by The Automotive Hall of Fame on Thursday, February 6, 2020

Automotive Hall of Fame 2020 Inductees

Along with Rother, the Automotive Hall of Fame will induct three other people this year at the MGM Grand Hotel in Detroit during the 2020 Induction & Awards Gala Ceremony — Mong-Koo Chung, Chairman and CEO of Hyundai Motor Company; Thomas Gallagher, former CEO of Genuine Parts Company; and Jay Leno, automotive enthusiast, collector, and leader of CNBC’s series, Jay Leno’s Garage. Harold Goddijn, CEO of TomTom, will receive the inaugural Mobility Innovator Award.

“We believe that these four individuals are incredibly worthy of this honor thanks to their outstanding achievements and innovations,” said Ramzi Hermiz, Chairman of the Automotive Hall of Fame and President and CEO of Shiloh Industries.

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