The world has yet to see a woman take ultimate charge of General Motors, one of the nation’s major automakers. But Mary Barra, once vice president of GM’s product development, is setting precedent as the company’s first female CEO, USA Today reports. She’s also the only female CEO in the auto industry.
GM, home to America’s niftiest vehicle brands such as Cadillac and Buick, is losing their former CEO, Dan Akerson due to spousal illness; his wife is diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. “I need to spend all my time and energy fighting this disease with my wife,” Akerson told reporters. Barra has been groomed for the position, but her move to the top was accelerated by these sad circumstances.
Barra has been working at GM since the age of 18, so she’s proven her commitment to the company and her drive to push GM in the right direction. “What a tremendous culmination of Mary Barra’s career at GM. As someone who started with the company as an intern in 1980, she has truly climbed the corporate ladder through dedication and hard work,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
An analyst at RBC Capital Markets who has worked with Barra first-hand explains that there wasn’t a time she’s ever disappointed him: “In the times we have met Ms. Barra, we came away impressed and believe she has a strong vision for GM,” Joe Spak said. Her vision, according to Spak, includes a focus on economizing and streamlining GM.
Barra is planning to halve the number of global platforms and architectures that GM uses to construct its cars. She also plans to slash the number of engines. “Wringing out inefficiencies should help GM close the margin gap with Ford,” Spak notes.
As she centralizes her vision on cost saving, Barra has some big shoes to fill. It was under Akerson’s tenure that GM returned to the stock exchange with an IPO back in 2010 after filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And it was Akerson who oversaw some of GM’s most profitable quarters. “GM vehicles have vaulted up the […] reliability scales under Akerson,” the paper says.
But the major automaker must foresee a great success from Barra’s leadership as she was the very first pick for CEO out of four other male candidates.
“I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed,” Barra says. Good luck, Mary!