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New GM CEO Barra to Succeed Akerson, Becomes First Female CEO of US Automaker

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new GM CEO Barra

New GM CEO Barra, replacing Akerson

In an historic move, General Motors has named Mary Barra as the company’s CEO in the wake of the retirement of current-and-outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson. New GM CEO Barra will be the first woman tapped to lead one of the “Detroit Three” (Chevy, Ford, and Chrysler) when Akerson steps down on January 15, 2014. The long-overdue naming of a woman to the CEO position marks a new direction for the automaker.

Barra, currently the executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain, received the nod from the General Motors Board of Directors to become the next CEO of GM. Barra will also become a member of the GM Board.

As Jalopnik reports, Mary Barra has been with GM since 1980, when her career began as a co-op student at Pontiac. After earning her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University, she rose through the ranks in various manufacturing, engineering, and senior staff positions. This includes serving as executive director of competitive operations engineering, plant manager of the Hamtramck Assembly plant, and VP of both global manufacturing engineering and global human resources.

“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,” said new GM CEO Barra in an official release. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

Current GM CEO Akerson’s retirement was expedited by his wife’s recent diagnosis of being in the advanced stages of cancer. Akerson took over GM shortly after the 2009 bailout and has led the automaker back to prominence in the years since. The U.S. Treasury just sold of the final shares of GM, making it a fully public company once again.

“I will leave with great satisfaction in what we have accomplished, great optimism over what is ahead and great pride that we are restoring General Motors as America’s standard bearer in the global auto industry,” Akerson said in a message to GM employees.

In addition to naming Mary Barra the new CEO, GM made a number of coinciding moves, including naming Theodore Solso to succeed Akerson as Chairman, appointing Dan Ammann as company president, and tapping Mark Reuss (who many analysts had predicted would take over for Akerson) to fill in Barra’s former role as vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain.

“The driver’s seat of designing and engineering the strongest product line up in GM’s history is the best seat to have,” said Reuss. “We’re going to keep the pedal down on GM’s product resurgence and keep winning new customers.”