DETROIT, Mich. — For the first time in the nearly 130-year existence of the automobile industry, a woman soon will lead a major automaker. Mary Barra will become CEO of General Motors on January 15. Barra, executive vice president of global product development, was elected by the company’s board of directors to replace CEO and chairman Dan Akerson, who said today he wanted to step down after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. The announcement comes one day after the U.S. Treasury completed its final sale of GM shares, ending a four-year government stake that lost $10.5 billion.
Four of the 14 GM board members are women, two of whom were appointed by the U.S. Treasury in 2009 after the company declared bankruptcy and converted $49.5 billion in government loans to stock.
“I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed,” Barra said in a statement.
Barra, a 33-year GM veteran who started as an engineering intern at Pontiac, has been lauded for cutting the company’s fat. In 2011, Akerson promoted Barra to her current role from vice president of human resources and since August she has been running the company’s global supplier networks and purchasing agreements. Barra, 51, may be best known for reducing the number of executives who approve model changes — a longstanding problem at GM — from three to one.
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