Latest News & Current Events

"No more crappy cars" -GM's Mary Barra breaks Detroit's glass ceiling

A day after the U.S. Treasury sold its last ownership stake in General Motors, the company named Mary Barra on Tuesday to succeed current chairman and CEO, Dan Akerson next month.

Barra, 51, is currently executive vice president of global product development and has worked at GM for three decades. She will not only be the automaker's first female CEO but the first woman to serve as the chief executive officer of any major auto company in the world.

She will succeed Akerson on Jan. 15, when he leaves the company to spend time with his wife, who is suffering from advanced stage cancer, according to GM.

The well-respected Barra was GM's first-ever woman “car czar,” responsible for the design, engineering, program management – and, critically, quality improvement efforts – for GM’s 11 worldwide brands.

Mary Barra GM Senior Vice President Global Products

Barra had previously been Vice President, Global Human Resources.

She has also served as GM Vice President, Global Manufacturing Engineering; Plant Manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly; Executive Director of Competitive Operations Engineering; and has held several engineering and staff positions.
In 1990, Barra graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business after receiving a GM fellowship in 1988.

Barra began her career with GM in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.

She serves on the General Dynamics and Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Board of Directors.  Barra is also a member of the Kettering University Board of Trustees and is GM’s Key Executive for Stanford University and University of California-Berkeley.

Barra is married with two children and was born December 24, 1961.

Current CEO Akerson joined GM following its run through Chapter 11, a process it exited only with the help of a $49.5 billion federal bailout. The U.S. Treasury has been selling down its stake since GM’s November 2011 IPO, the last of the government’s shares going on the block yesterday. Akerson took on both chairman and CEO duties in 2010 following the departure of Ed Whitacre. Both men had backgrounds in the telecomm industry.  That raised concerns for many observers who worried that GM needed to have a top executive who actually understood the automotive industry.

Barra has been a GM and auto industry lifer, working her way up through a string of positions, over 33 years, that most recently positioned her as the overseer of GM’s product portfolio. Barra was once quoted as telling workers to improve the quality of GM's fleet  with a directive for her employees: "The simple thing I say to them is, No more crappy cars, and that resonates." 

“With an amazing portfolio of cars and trucks and the strongest financial performance in our recent history, this is an exciting time at today’s GM,” said Barra. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

Barra was recently named Most Powerful Woman among automotive executives by Fortune magazine. She has won praise not only for her knowledge of the business but also for her management style, which reflects that of the widely praised Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

She will have a strong team to lead, including the 41-year-old Dan Ammann, a New Zealander who signed on as GM's chief financial officer after assisting the maker through its 2009 bankruptcy. Ammann, led the development of the maker’s critical 2011 IPO. He will serve in the dual role as president and CFO until “at least” next April, according to GM, though a search for a replacement is now underway.

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