Bogi Lateiner: Changing the Conversation on Women in Automotive
Bogi Lateiner is changing the conversation about Women in Automotive
Bogi Lateiner at her award-winning auto shop, 180 Automotive, in Phoenix, Arizona - photo courtesy of Bogi's Garage
Sarah “Bogi” Lateiner is a prominent face in the automotive world, starring on Velocity’s “All Girls Garage” since it debuted in 2012, owning and running her award-winning auto shop, 180 Automotive, in Phoenix, Arizona, educating students and shop owners, and creating the Chevy Montage all female build that famously debuted at SEMA last year.
Her path to being a leader in the car scene, however, did not take a predictable or linear route. Instead of getting into cars through family, it was her interest in old VW bugs and her strong feminist mindset that lead her to pick up a wrench.
“Oh God, no. My family doesn’t know where I came from,” she laughs, when asked if she grew up working on cars with her parents. Instead, she decided in high school that she wanted a Volkswagen. She had long loved the VW beetles, and would buy the VW magazines and dream of having her own. She felt that, “VW’s always have a story.”
When it was finally her time to drive, she got her Beetle, and with it, she soon learned the realities of used car ownership. Taking her bug to a VW shop, she was disappointed in the way she was treated and realized that not knowing more about her car made her feel vulnerable to shops taking advantage of her or dismissing what she had to say. She decided she would learn about and restore her own car, and one day, she would be in one of those VW magazines, not as one of the models in front of the car, as most of the women appearing in the magazines were, but instead, as the owner who built it herself.
She enrolled in shop class in high school and was the second female in her school’s history to take shop. She did get some resistance, but not necessarily from who she expected. Her guidance counselor tried to talk her out of it, saying, “But you are smart, you can go to college... Why would you go to shop?”
The words always bothered her, but at the time, she defiantly brushed it off and enrolled anyway. By year two, she convinced her shop teacher to let her bring her VW in to be a project in class, and soon she was restoring her Bug and helping teach other students and her friends about working on cars.
Several of these elements would come into play later in her career, but for a while, cars took a backseat as she entered college and studied pre-law. She was on her way to Harvard Law when she started to evaluate what she really wanted to do.
She wanted to help people and empower women with her double major in Law and Women’s Studies, but she also was a huge supporter of the trades, and she found that there were two major things she missed being away from cars while focused on college.
“I missed working with my hands. I missed the bug…. not the Beetle Bug,” she laughs as she catches her inadvertent pun. “The car bug. The wrenching bug.”
She also missed sharing her knowledge and seeing others get bit by it, too.
“I was teaching my friends and it was great, just seeing the light go off for them. I realized how much empowerment I got conquering it, and how, all of a sudden, all these other things that seemed scary – maybe that’s not so scary.”
Sharing that empowerment has become her life mission, particularly sharing her craft with fellow females.
“My passion is to teach other women.”
And while there seems to be more and more publicity lately for women in the car world, she suspects the numbers haven’t grown as exponentially as it seems in the professional automotive landscape, but that the visibility absolutely has.
“The number of women hasn’t changed. The Labor Bureau shows it going from 1.6% to 1.8% of automotive technicians (that) are women, so it hasn’t changed much, but the difference is, now we’re connected.”
With social media, women in the car space who previously felt alone can see that there are plenty of others, and she agrees that there are, “more DIY enthusiasts than ever before.”
“Before, it was disempowered. It’s harder when you feel like ‘the only’. Now, we’ve got groups, you know they exist. It feels like more but it’s just because we know about each other now.”
She also says that the conversation has finally started to shift.
“There used to be two categories of men: the ones who said, ‘you shouldn’t be here’ and the ones who’d say, ‘I don’t care, if you know what you’re doing, it’s cool.’ Now, there’s three. There’s the ‘I think it’s awesome!’ guys – and those are usually dad’s, guys who have daughters. It’s changed.
“Until you’ve had an experience, you rely on what you’ve heard, stereotypes…. There’s enough men in the industry now who’ve had experiences working with women that’s been positive, the stereotypes are rapidly changing.”
With so much accolades and accomplishments already under her toolbelt, there’s plenty to choose from, but she says that what brings her the most pride is being able to empower other people. Whether she does it thru teaching her women’s car care classes, educating a customer at her shop so they can feel confident enough to tackle the basics on their own car, or on a bigger project like the Montage build - giving that power to others is what she loves.
The Chevy Montage, a 1957 Chevy pickup truck that was built entirely over a nine month period by a revolving group of 90 women, from first time novices to pros like herself, was a concept she thought would be a good way to stir up the conversation about women in the field.
Little did she know how much everyone involved would gain from it.
“I didn’t understand at the time that I was gathering our tribe together and what the impact of that would be.”
Bogi Lateiner and some of the women on the build with the Chevy Montage truck - photo courtesy of Bogi's Garage
Since the truck debuted at SEMA to massive media attention and appreciation, many of the women who were involved have continued to go on to tackle more amazing accomplishments. Just a few highlights include a production welder who finally was inspired to open her own restoration shop, a shop owner who went forward with a huge expansion of her shop, and a couple of the first-timers going on to do their own complete classic truck build. “High Yellow” is the name of a 1956 Chevy truck restoration project currently underway in Tucson, by Montage build participants Shawnda Williams and Carly Austin.
Lateiner was blown away by the success of the build and the support they got along the way.
“I was super surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of industry support,” she says. “It was a testament to the fact that this is a conversation people are ready to have. Everyone was offering their support, it was a really cool thing.”
She said all their sponsors were wonderful, especially BASF, who was a “huge supporter” and Classic Instruments, whose owner was so excited about the concept and being involved, that he ensured that only his female employees worked on building the instrument cluster they made for the truck.
She’s most thankful for her “great” team at 180 Automotive and she’s thankful to see the shift that has been taking place for women in the automotive industry. She’s excited about the vitalized push for women in STEM, which she points out involves the skills required for modern car care, including computer skills, diagnostic abilities, aptitude and intelligence.
“My real passion, my life mission…. What I’m here for…. is to change to conversation about women and their cars. To invite and include more women to pick up a wrench. To help develop the trades and get more women involved, and to help the trades earn and gain more respect in society.”
Her enthusiasm is infectious and her knowledge vast, but it is her commitment to sharing that passion and skill to help others that really makes Bogi Lateiner a true asset to the car world – and the world, in general.
This was an excerpt from a larger feature about Bogi Lateiner for the book, “Her Ride”. A segment of this was first published in the Houston Chronicle on Saturday, September 22, 2018 in the car section column "Heidi's Customs & Classics".
Keywords: all women build, auto, automotive, bogi lateiner, car, cars, chevy, classics, column, Heidi van Horne, montage, pickup, project, rebuild, truck, women in automotive
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