General Motors Names First Woman as CEO

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The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) 2012Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images GM's newly named CEO Mary Barra.
By TOM KRISHER

DETROIT -- General Motors picked Mary Barra, its product development chief and a 33-year company veteran, as its next CEO. Barra will become the first female head of a major U.S. car company.

GM (GM) said Tuesday that Barra, 51, will replace Dan Akerson on Jan. 15. Akerson, 65, chairman and CEO, moved up his retirement plans by several months because his wife, Karin, is battling advanced cancer, the company said in a statement.

Since February 2011 Barra has held what many say is the most important job in the company -- senior vice president for global product development. She's in charge of design, engineering and quality of all of GM's vehicles across the globe and has shepherded most of the company's recent new vehicle introductions.

Under her command, GM rolled out brawny new full-size pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and the Chevrolet Impala full-size car, which earned the highest score for a sedan in testing by Consumer Reports magazine.
Its quality scores also rose in surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. She also led development of the new Chevrolet Corvette.

Akerson hinted at the move earlier this year when he told a women's business group in Detroit that a "car gal" would run one of the Detroit Three automakers someday soon.

Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, said Barra is the daughter of a die maker in the auto industry and truly has experience to lead GM. GM's previous two CEOs, Akerson and Ed Whitacre, came from the telecommunications and finance industries and lacked the auto industry experience that Barra has, Gordon said.

"There's nobody with more years of honest 'car-guy' credentials than she has," Gordon said. "She started off as a little-girl car guy. She became a big-girl car guy and how she's a woman car guy. She's the one to do the breakthrough," Gordon said.

Women have held top positions in auto marketing design and engineering, but never made it to the CEO spot, Gordon said. "The fact that none of them has run a major car company makes no sense," he said.

With the decision, the GM board separated the board chairman and CEO positions. Barra will get a seat on the board, but Director Theodore "Tim" Solso will succeed Akerson as chairman. Solso formerly was chairman and CEO of engine maker Cummins Inc. (CMI), and has been on GM's board since June of 2012.

"I will leave with great satisfaction in what we have accomplished, great optimism over what is ahead and great pride that we are restoring General Motors as America's standard bearer in the global auto industry," Akerson said Tuesday morning in a message to employees.

Barra's appointment should help GM because women now make or influence car-buying decisions. She'll also help GM recruit the top engineering and business school graduates, many of whom are women, Gordon said.

Barra started with GM as an electrical engineering co-op student in 1980 when she attended what is now Kettering University in nearby Flint. She now heads purchasing and previously ran the company's human resources operations. Before that she was a plant manager and executive director of engineering. She holds a master's degree in business administration from Stanford University.

Barra was among four internal candidates for the position, including Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann, North American President Mark Reuss and Vice Chairman Steve Girsky.

Ammann, 41, was named GM president and will manage its regional operations worldwide. He'll also head up the global Cadillac and Chevrolet brands, as well as GM Financial, the company's auto loan arm.

Reuss, 50, replaces Barra as head of product development and purchasing. Girsky, 51, will become a senior adviser and will leave the company in April. He'll stay on the board.

Reuss will be replaced by Alan Batey, 50, as North American president.

Shares of GM fell 20 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $40.70 in Tuesday morning trading after the announcement.


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13 Comments

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diane4tom

first thing - - -do not wait one minute - - get rid of the VOLT - -in last 100 miles saw 15 prius and 0 volt. translate into CEO terms means she will most likely make 50,000 more if they are not moving. 73 years old and been chevy man all my life and this is the worst piece of tin yet.

December 10 2013 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TLMNIKE86

GM Moves to Hire a Woman CEO... Watch the Stock get to $50 a Share in 2014.

December 10 2013 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RED SKULL

Why can't a Woman be CEO ? Men have made a mess of the World so far they have been running the show and just look at it ? Women get things done.
Change is good I applaud GM.

December 10 2013 at 2:32 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RED SKULL's comment
chrispnet

What a load of crap.

The woman may well be the best choice, but it has nothing to do with her being a woman. It has more to do with her knowing the business. Dunce.

December 11 2013 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RED SKULL

If GM should have to pay the $10 billion back the I should get my portion of the $ 1 Trillion paid in the War in Iraq that I did not want to happen.
$10 Billion is what The Pentagon spends in 5 days.

December 10 2013 at 2:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
glennbogart

"GM names first woman as CEO." Eve?

December 10 2013 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shadowtwob

Poor girl I feel sorry for her she has been promoted from whipping girl to scape goat.Now when things go on the down swing they can blame her.I know i was there with GM

December 10 2013 at 12:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Yup put a woman in charge of cars. Women know nothing about cars except to put gas in them

December 10 2013 at 11:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

The last nail in the coffin !

December 10 2013 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MIchigan Man

Great, now the news will be all about a woman being the first CEO of Government Motors (GM) and that is good, but you probably won't hear much about the $10 BILLION scammed from the American taxpayers to repay the unions for their Obama vote. I think GM should be compelled to repay all the money borrowed (?) plys interest. Of course our DC faux-representatives won't deman it, primarily because it isn't thier money being squandered.

December 10 2013 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MIchigan Man's comment
richard

Get a job.

December 10 2013 at 2:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Rick

Another nail in the coffin of US Automakers….. Ford is getting it right, though.

December 10 2013 at 10:28 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply