Jean Lienert Jennings was born in Detroit and grew up on a dirt road outside tiny New Baltimore, Michigan, learning to love cars from her father, editor of?Automotive News. Jennings entered the University of Michigan at 16 but soon dropped out in search of adventure.
She first became owner/operator of a Yellow Cab in Ann Arbor and learned to repair the cab herself. Next, she worked as a test driver, welder and mechanic at the Chrysler Proving Grounds, where she edited the UAW newsletter, won awards for it, and then talked her way into a job at?Car and Driver?magazine. As her career accelerated, she built an enviable fan base, fueled by her sparkling – and funny – writing about adventures with cars. After five years, in 1985, Car and Driver’s editor-in-chief left to start Automobile magazine?and brought Jennings with him as its first executive editor. She rose to editor-in-chief in 2000, the first woman to lead a major monthly car magazine. She added the title of president in 2006.
During 29 years at Automobile, Jennings was known for nurturing the car world’s best writers, editors and designers. Those she mentored have gone on to Esquire, Men’s Journal, Popular Mechanics and The New York Times.
Jennings has been was profiled in The New Yorker, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, was?Good Morning America’s?automotive correspondent, was New Woman’s auto columnist, and has been a regular contributor on network news programs.
In 2013, she founded Caden’s Car Show for patients at Mott Children’s Hospital, gathering massive support to honor a young car enthusiast friend who died awaiting a heart transplant.
Jennings has won dozens of awards for feature writing, car reviews, and her column, “Vile Gossip.” Those include the most prestigious award in her field, the Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism. She has been honored by the Motor Press Guild, International Society for Vehicle Preservation, Detroit Press Club Foundation, and many others. Under her leadership, Automobile was the first car magazine to win a National Magazine Award.