As General Motors fought to find its footing following bankruptcy, Mary Barra was tasked with managing the guts of its revival. Now she's known as the person who restored order at GM. In less than three years in her role as global product development chief, Barra moved at a dizzying pace and helped to return both confidence and profit to the once-beleaguered automaker. On Tuesday, she was rewarded for her efforts. Barra, 51, was named CEO of General Motors. She is the first woman to lead a US car company.
She's known as the person who restored order at GM.
"Mary went into an organization that, frankly, four years ago was in chaos," said outgoing CEO Dan Akerson, who announced his retirement at the same time. "She was central to the whole evolution." Against the improbable backdrop of GM's federal bailout, Barra spearheaded the revitalization of the company's lineup of cars, implemented widespread supply-chain changes and oversaw the creation of engine and vehicle strategies that, by decade's end, will result in 90 percent of the company's cars being produced on five or fewer platforms.
Akerson called the global product development role, "the most complicated," in the company. If there was anyone suited for such a role, it was Barra. For more than three decades, she has been a jack-of-all-trades at GM, rising through a series of manufacturing, engineering and human resource positions. She started her career at GM as an intern in 1980, and has worked on factory floors, once as manager at the company's Hamtramck Assembly Plant in Detroit, and she also served as executive director of the company's engineering operations.