Sam Philip11 December 2013

Mary Barra is GM's new boss

Lifelong GM employee becomes first female boss of a US car company

GM has appointed Mary Barra as its new CEO.

Barra, currently global product boss at the General, will become the first woman in charge of a major international car company when she takes over from current CEO Dan Akerson in January.

The 51-year-old is a lifelong GM employee, and has spent 33 years working her way up through the firm that vies with Toyota for the title of World's Biggest Car Company. Barra's father, too, worked for 39 years for GM, as a die caster for Pontiac. Safe to say she won't need anyone to show her around on her first day in the new job.

It's hoped that the appointment of an engineer to the top job should see GM - a firm long-criticised for employing money-men rather than 'car guys' to its boardroom - focus on developing world-class cars rather than penny-squeezing.

Akerson, an expert in corporate turnarounds, was appointed by the Obama administration in 2009 to guide GM out of bankruptcy, and will leave a company returning decent profits, despite ongoing trouble in Europe.

Even so, Barra joins a firm in overhaul: last week, GM announced it was pulling Chevrolet from Europe, and today confirmed it will cease its Holden operations in Australia. Compared to Volkswagen or Toyota, GM remains a sprawl of a global company, and nowhere near as profitable.

So Barra will have her work cut out, but arrives with a reputation for slashing red tape and bureacracy: Akerson hailed her as bringing 'order to chaos'.

In the shape of the new Corvette - a recent recipient of a Top Gear Car Of The Year Award - it's clear GM is more than capable of making world-class cars. Barra, we hope, is the boss to build on that.

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