Mary Teresa Barra got an early birthday present yesterday after being crowned the “queen” of America’s auto industry, in replacing replace Dan Akerson as chief executive officer of GM. Already recognized as the “41st most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine last year, this now makes her the first female CEO of a major global automaker. Akerson. 65, moved up his retirement plans to tend to his cancer-stricken wife Karen.
Born December 24, 1961 as Mary Teresa Makela, Barra, now a married mother of two, grew up with a father who worked as a die maker at Pontiac for 39 years. She began her own career with the company at the age of 18 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. She later obtained a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business after receiving a GM fellowship in 1988.
Along the way, Barra has served the company as a Vice President, Global Human Resources; Vice President, Global Manufacturing Engineering; Plant Manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly; Executive Director of Competitive Operations Engineering; and has held several engineering and staff positions, before being named as GM’s Senior Vice President, Global Product Development February 1, 2011. That position made her responsible for the design, engineering, program management and quality of General Motors vehicles around the world.
She later assumed command for General Motor’s Global Purchasing and Supply Chain organization and was named Executive Vice President, Global Product Development & Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, and became a member of the GM Executive Operations Committee and serves on the Adam Opel AG Supervisory Board.
According to Akerson, Mary Barra was the unanimous choice to succeed him “due to the breadth of hr experience, management record, people skills and understanding of GM’s operations.”
Note: When asked what her favorite cars are, Barra cited the Chevrolet Camaro and Firebird as favorite cars.