As 'Government Motors' Era Ends, a Female CEO Takes the Wheel
Motor City is getting its first female chief executive.
Mary Barra, the head of product development, purchasing and supply chain management for General Motors, will succeed the automaker's current CEO, Dan Akerson, in the top spot. The board selected Barra as CEO over several other candidates, including chief financial officer Dan Amman, according to Bloomberg News.
Barra joined GM as an intern more than three decades ago, at the age of 18, and has advanced through positions in manufacturing, engineering, human resources and other divisions. Her slow-and-steady rise should instill faith in GM investors who want an experienced CEO at the helm. "One leader can make tens of billions of difference. We've seen that [in the auto industry]," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told Bloomberg earlier this year.
"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," Barra said in a company statement. "I'm honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed."
When Akerson steps down on January 15, Barra will become the only female CEO in the automotive industry worldwide.
Recently, GM has also led the U.S. auto industry on a couple of key quality indicators. The 2014 Chevrolet Impala was chosen by Consumer Reports as the best in its class, the first U.S. sedan to earn that label in more than 20 years. And the Cadillac CTS, a luxury sports car, was Motor Trend's car of the year pick for 2014. Barra was GM's head of vehicle development -- a position she has held for nearly two years -- when these cars debuted.
"U.S. automakers are clearly in the midst of a bona fide renaissance," Consumers Reports' review of the Impala said. "But the most dramatic turnaround yet is the phoenix-like rise of the revamped Chevrolet Impala."
Better still, the U.S. government sold its remaining shares of GM stock yesterday. In the midst of the recession in 2008, the government threw GM a lifeline totaling $49.5 billion. Although the government took a loss of $10.5 billion in selling off its stake, industry watchers are hopeful that the end of the "Government Motors" era signals a return to excellence for the automaker.
Major investors, including Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, are reportedly poised to sink new money into GM. GM's stock closed at a record high of $40.90 a share yesterday, before the announcement that Barra would take over as CEO. The stock is still trading above $40.60.
Along with Barra's appointment, GM's board of directors named Amman president. He currently leads the automaker's global finance operations, and in his new position GM Financial will report to him, a company statement said.
The U.S. government rescued General Motors, and all it cost U.S. taxpayers was $10.5 billion. Was it worth it? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.