General Motors names first female chief executive

December 10, 2013 

DETROIT — General Motors announced that its chief executive, Daniel Akerson, will retire next month and be replaced by Mary T. Barra, who will become the first woman to lead a major auto company.

The elevation of Ms. Barra, 51, to the chief executive post is the latest dramatic change at the top of G.M. since its bailout by the federal government in 2009.

G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, said that Mr. Akerson, 65, will step down as chief executive and chairman on Jan. 15. His planned retirement was hastened, the company said, by his wife’s recent cancer diagnosis.

Ms. Barra has worked for G.M. for 33 years and was most recently the executive vice president of global product development. She is considered a key player in the company’s overhaul of its vehicle lineups around the world.

The G.M. board approved Ms. Barra’s selection and named her as a director of the company.

“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 G.M.,” Ms. Barra said in a statement. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

The announcement of Mr. Akerson’s retirement comes a day after the Treasury Department said it had sold the last of the G.M. stock that taxpayers received in exchange for the government’s $49.5 billion bailout of the company.

Mr. Akerson was among the new directors that the government had installed after the bailout. He became chief executive in 2010 and led the automaker through its initial public stock offering and subsequent turnaround.

“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,” Mr. Akerson said.

The choice of Ms. Barra as the next C.E.O. was not totally unexpected in Detroit, where she had been considered among a handful of internal candidates for the job.

But by choosing a female chief executive, the G.M. board underscored how the once lumbering automaker is embracing change and diversity.

G.M. said that Mr. Akerson’s successor as chairman of the board will be Theodore Solso, the former chairman and C.E.O. of the Cummins engine manufacturer.

The company also said that its chief financial officer, Dan Ammann, will become president of G.M. and assume responsibility for regional operations and global brand organizations.

Mr. Ammann, 41, will retain the C.F.O. job until a replacement is named.

Other changes include the move of Mark Reuss, who had been chief of G.M.'s North American operations, to Ms. Barra’s job as head of product development. Mr. Reuss had also been considered a candidate for the chief executive position.

G.M. also announced that Steve Girsky, who is a vice chairman of the company, will move to a senior advisory role until leaving the company in April. He will remain on the G.M. board.

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