General Motors has just named its new chief executive officer, Mary Barra. Barra replaces Dan Akerson, who recently announced his retirement after the Treasury Department sold its remaining GM shares.
Formerly GM’s EVP of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, Barra was critically positioned to shape the future of the car-making giant via its future designs and its sprawling supplier network. Speaking to Fast Company in late 2011, Barra claimed she didn’t consider herself a designer, but understood the complex mix of aesthetics and engineering design that making brand-new cars requires: “When we look at designs … We’re also looking at: It’s beautiful, but can we build it? And can we build it consistently with quality?”
By late 2012, Akerson had already named her among the favorites to be his predecessor, and she told Fast Company that “cars and trucks are exciting and an important part of people’s lives … It’s in my blood. I want GM to succeed.” At the time, she seemed extremely comfortable in her role, pointing out that she had “the best job in the company already. I am surrounded by great new cars, trucks, and cross-overs every day, and I play a role in bringing new innovations and vehicle designs to life.”
Barra was already the highest ranking woman executive in GM’s history, and considered one of the most influential women in the manufacturing world. Her status is now considerably higher. She takes control of GM as the company addresses the realities of the 21st century, which includes designing and producing newer, smarter, and more efficient cars faster than before.