Sep 16, 2020

Milton Keynes, 16 September 2020: From over 300 nominations, five of the Volkswagen Group United Kingdom’s women feature in Autocar’s list of the top 100 women in the car industry, and are joined by two further colleagues from Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Financial Services UK.

Run by Autocar, in association with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), and judged by a panel of automotive experts, the initiative recognises the top 100 women leading the way across the UK’s car industry.

The top 100 was selected from the following 12 areas of the car industry: Executive, Marketing, Manufacturing, Mobility and Digital, Operations, PR and Communications, Government Affairs, Design, People Development, Sales – Manufacturers and Sales – Retail.

The Volkswagen Group’s women were recognised in the fields of: Executive, PR and Comms, Government Affairs, Marketing and Sales-Retail.

Commenting on the nomination to the Top 100, Volkswagen Group UK’s Managing Director, Alex Smith, said: “I’m delighted to see our female leaders recognised in such a prestigious list, and we are really proud of their achievements. This is of course just a snapshot of our female talent. I’m confident the work we’re doing to achieve balance in our workforce continues to pay off and I look forward to maintaining our representation on the list in the years to come.”

Inclusive workplaces with diverse teams are more innovative, creative and make better decisions and that's what we are passionate about creating here at Volkswagen Group UK. By recognising and respecting our people, we aim to inspire, attract and keep the best talent in a competitive market and provide our people with a safe place to truly thrive at work.

We focus our efforts through three main workstreams: Inspire, Attract and Develop & Keep.

Within our Develop & Keep workstream we include a focus on gender balance: here our objective is to focus on helping empower women to achieve their potential

When this year’s initiative kicked off, Rachael Prasher, Managing Director of Haymarket Automotive, said: “We are all so proud to be entering the fifth year of our initiative to shine a light on the best and brightest women in the UK’s automotive industry. Over the past five years, I have been delighted to see a huge increase in the number of opportunities, which has in turn allowed women to excel further across all key industry sectors. This year we’re excited to once again recognise the female leaders who are making waves in the industry, and we look forward to getting to know the wealth of talent from this year’s nominations.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, also commented at the launch: “We are proud once again to be working alongside Autocar to recognise the achievements of the best and brightest in the business. With rapid developments in electrification, digitalisation and AI, there has never been a more exciting time to work in automotive, and we believe this initiative is playing an important role in inspiring even more talent from across all backgrounds and genders to join us in shaping the future of mobility in the UK.”

The full rankings, and winners, can be viewed on from September 16.

For more information about careers in the Volkswagen Group visit

The nominees from Volkswagen Group UK are:-

Penny Weatherup Human Resources Director, Volkswagen Group UK
Kate Thompson Head of Marketing, Press and Public Relations, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK
Sarah Cox Head of Marketing, Volkswagen Passenger Cars UK
Claire English Head of Fleet, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK
Kirsten Stagg Head of Marketing, ŠKODA UK
And also:  
Jean Smith Chief Financial Officer, Volkswagen Financial Services UK
Franziska Rothe  Head of London Office, Governmental Affairs Volkswagen AG


Detailed biographies of the above nominees 

Jean Smith
SMITH HOLDS A key role in Volkswagen Financial Services UK, which finances vehicles sold at Volkswagen Group dealerships. She took to the job last year, moving from the position of joint managing director at Volkswagen Financial Services in the Netherlands. She joined Volkswagen Financial Services in 2001, moving from BMW, and has worked in the motor finance sector since the late 1980s.

Claire English
ENGLISH OVERSEES THE large fleet commercial vehicle orders that account for around half of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ annual sales.
She started at the Volkswagen Group in 2003 as a graduate trainee, gaining a full-time position first at ŠKODA and then Volkswagen Passenger Cars, rising to the position of national contract hire and leasing manager.

Sarah Cox
COX WAS PROMOTED to her current senior position in May and oversees product, events and communications for the brand, including launching the new Volkswagen ID. range of electric cars. Prior to that Cox was head of marketing for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, which she moved to from Audi in 2016. Her career in motoring started in 1999 when, aged 21, she joined a BMW graduate scheme, before switching to Audi in 2004.

Penny Weatherup
WEATHERUP JOINED VOLKSWAGEN Group UK’s board in 2016 as human resources director after starting at the company in 2007 as an HR business partner, and she has overseen the people strategy for Volkswagen Group’s five combined brands in the UK. Before moving to VW, Weatherup worked at UK intellectual property firm Barker Brettell and insurance firm AXA.

Kate Thompson
THOMPSON HAS RECENTLY BEEN APPOINTED to the new role of Head of Marketing, Press and PR for the increasingly important Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand, covering vans, pick-up trucks and campervans. Sitting on the brands management team, she is responsible for all the brand's product marketing activities including planning and launching new models, all communications, digital strategy, ecommerce and events. She joined Volkswagen in 1999 after previously working in fleet magazines. She moved to the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles team in 2015.

Franziska Rothe
ROTHE HAS BEEN leading the London governmental affairs office, part of Volkswagen AG’s global external and government relations department, since 2013. Prior to that she held roles in Bentley’s PR department, including PR manager for Europe West and corporate and government affairs manager. Rothe joined Volkswagen AG in 2005 at the group’s EU representation office in Brussels, managing a range of policy topics.

Kirsten Stagg
STAGG WAS PROMOTED to her current role in 2016 after two years working as head of marketing for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. She has seven direct reports with overall responsibility for a team of 25 and an agency team of around 130. Stagg joined the Volkswagen Group as a graduate trainee in 1998 and has also worked for Audi and the Volkswagen Passenger Car brand, where she rose to the position of national communications manager.

For further information on the Volkswagen Group please contact:

Oliver Larkin
Head of Group Corporate and Public relations
Volkswagen Group UK Ltd
07767 418946

For further media information on Autocar’s Great Women in the British Car Industry Top 100 please contact:

Lydia Banton
Publishing and events executive
Haymarket Automotive,
0208 267 5053

About the Volkswagen Group:
The Volkswagen Group, with its headquarters in Wolfsburg, is one of the world’s leading automobile manu- facturers and the largest carmaker in Europe. The Group comprises twelve brands from seven European coun- tries: Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania and MAN. The passenger car portfolio ranges from small cars all the way to luxury-class vehicles. Ducati offers motorcycles. In the light and heavy commercial vehicles sector, the products range from pick-ups to buses and heavy trucks. Every weekday, 671.205 employees around the globe produce on average 44,567 vehicles, are involved in vehicle-related services or work in other areas of business. The Volkswagen Group sells its vehicles in 153 countries.

In 2019, the total number of vehicles delivered to customers by the Group globally was 10.97 million (2018:10.83 million). The passenger car global market share was 12.9 percent. Group sales revenue in 2019 totaled EUR 252.6 billion (2018: EUR 235.8 billion). Earnings after tax in the fiscal year now ended amounted to EUR 14.0 billion (2018: EUR 12.2 billion).