Mary Barra to become GM CEO; first female CEO of any car maker

From 15 January 2014 General Motors will be headed by Mary Barra. When she steps into the chief executive’s chair she will become the first woman to head a major motor company.

Credit: GM

Mary Barra (foreground), first female CEO of GM, with Dan Akerson, outgoing GM CEO (background).
Mary Barra (foreground), first female CEO of GM, with Dan Akerson, outgoing GM CEO (background).

Currently 51, Mary Barra joined General Motors at the age of 18 and has been with the company her entire working life. She started her career at GM after graduating from the General Motors Institute (known since 1998 as Kettering University) in Flint, Michigan; in 1990 she gained an MBA at Stanford via a GM fellowship.

Barra’s history with GM stretches back a generation, as her father worked for 39 years at GM as a dye maker.

During her time at GM Barra has been in both manufacturing and engineering roles, as well as recently being part of the upper management team. She has previously managed the company’s Hamtramck plant in Detroit and been in charge of GM’s global human resources operation. Currently she is the executive vice president in charge of global product development, purchasing and the supply chain.

Barra will succeed current CEO Dan Akerson, who will step down from his roles as chairman and CEO on 15 January 2014. Although he has received his fair share of criticism throughout his tenure, he did help to guide GM, with substantial help from US federal governemnt, through a period in the bankruptcy courts.

Given the recent speculation about Holden’s future, one of Barra’s first acts as GM CEO could be to end Holden’s Australian manufacturing operations around 2016.

Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]