General Motors on Tuesday named Mary T Barra as its first woman CEO, to succeed Dan Akerson, who retires next January after almost four years at the top. Barra’s appointment is also the first for the US auto industry.
File photo of Mary Barra, the first female CEO of General Motors. (Reuters Photo)
The announcement came a day after US treasury said it had sold off the last of the GM stock it had received in exchange for the $49.5 billion bailout of the company.
Barra, 51, who has been executive vice-president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain since 2011, is a second generation GM employee -- her father was one too.
"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 in a statement.
Her appointment was not entirely a surprise to industry watchers as Akerson had said in September he could see a woman running one of of the Detroit auto-makers one day.
"The Detroit 3 (GM, Ford and Chrysler) are all run by non-car guys," Akerson said. "Some day, there'll be a Detroit 3 that's run by a car gal. I don't know when, but I think there are an unbelievable number of talented women in automotive, certainly at General Motors. It's inevitable."
And it did indeed happen at GM, the largest US car maker.
In her 33 years at the company, Barra held a series of manufacturing, engineering, and senior staff positions.
"She is 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 company said.
That turnaround started in 2008, and Akerson was among the new directors installed by the government as part of its rescue package for the company.
"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.
Akerson, 65, pulled ahead his succession plan by several months after his wife was recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.
Barra, 51, currently executive vice president for global product development, purchasing and supply chain, will assume the post on January 15.
The announcement came just one day after the US Treasury sold its last shares in General Motors, closing the books on a 2008 bailout executed amid the financial crisis. GM and fellow US automakers Ford and Chrysler have gained on surging auto sales throughout 2013.
Barra has worked at GM for 33 years, rising through a series of manufacturing, engineering and senior staff positions. GM, in a statement, called her "a leader in the company's ongoing turnaround."
An engineer by training, Barra has also served as vice president of global human resources, where she was credited with shaking up a corporate culture that had depressed profits and innovation.
Her GM-heavy background contrasts with Akerson, who joined GM as chief executive in 2010 after working on buyouts for investment firm The Carlyle Group.
Tuesday's announcement unveiled a series of other significant executive changes, including news that board member Theodore Solso would succeed Akerson as chairman.
Dan Ammann, currently executive vice president and chief financial officer, will become president and assume responsiblity for regional operations around the world. The global Chevrolet and Cadillac brands will report to him. A replacement as CFO will be named later.
Akerson, 65, accelerated the succession plan by several months after his wife was recently diagnosed with "an advanced stage of cancer," the company said.
GM shares were off 0.4% in early trade. Shares have risen steadily over the last 12 months.
Analyst reports released after the US Treasury announced it had sold its remaining equity stake in GM said the shares were primed to rise further thanks to improving products and the anticipation of a corporate dividend and share buyback program.