Mary Barra: Detroit’s First Lady

GM announced today that Mary Barra, the company’s current executive vice president of global product development and purchasing will replace Dan Akerson as CEO on January 15 2014. Mr Akerson had already announced his retirement a few months back, after his wife was recently diagnosed with an advance stage of cancer. “Sometimes life throws you a curve ball and I need to spend all my time with my wife fighting this disease,” he said in a statement. The change is part of the company’s recent management shuffle that included the appointment of former Cummins Inc executive Theodore Solso as board chairman and the naming of finance chief Dan Ammann as president.

Ms Barra is a second generation GM employee and has spent her whole working life at General Motors, since she started in 1980 as a co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division of the General Motors Institute at Kettering University. She has a reputation for speaking her mind and “she has a bias for action”, Akerson said in a 2011 interview. The appointment will make her the first female CEO to run a global auto maker and arguably, it will make her the highest-profile female CEO in the world.

“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 in a message to GM employees. These days Detroit is desperately trying to reinvent itself, renewable energies, bankruptcy and a leaner greener auto industry. A GM statement called Barra “a leader in the company’s ongoing turnaround, revitalizing GM’s product-development process resulting in the launch of critically acclaimed new products while delivering record product-quality ratings and higher customer satisfaction.”

The next 5 years will show if Mary Barra and GM can be part of a global american comeback!

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