By Felicia Taylor and Catriona Davies, CNN
Today, 34 years on, she is president and managing director of General Motors, Brazil, and trying to persuade more young women to reach the top in the car industry.
Lieblein says she has "gas in my veins." She studied engineering at what was then General Motors Institute, now Kettering University, in Flint, Michigan, and has worked for the company ever since.
Before moving to Brazil, she was chief engineer for vehicles such as the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse, and then president and managing director of General Motors in Mexico.
"My feeling was always, I'm going to get in and I'm going to do the best job that I can and I will build my credibility from there," she said.
"With that attitude I was able to win over some skeptics, and for those who maybe didn't change their mind, I figured that's their problem. That is not my problem."
Despite the progress, Lieblein is still working in a male-dominated environment.
Women made up just under 21% of employees in car manufacturing in the United States, and 16% of executives and senior management, according to a 2010 Equal Opportunity Employment Commission report.