General Motors Names Mary Barra CEO in Historic Appointment

First female to have the role at a major U.S. automotive company

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General Motors chief exec Dan Akerson plans to retire in January, and the carmaker has tapped Mary Barra as his successor, making her the first female CEO of a major U.S. automotive company. It's been speculated for months that Barra would eventually replace 65-year-old Akerson, though the timeline has been moved up due to his wife, Karin, having late-stage cancer.

Akerson appointed Barra svp of global product development in 2011 after she spent a year and a half as GM's head of human resources. Barra, 51, joined the auto giant in 1980 and has been credited for leading the Detroit firm's turnaround during the last several years.

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

Akerson said in a message to GM staffers: “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." 

Dan Ammann, 41, who had been evp and CFO, was elevated to company president and will manage its regional operations around the world. In addition, the global Chevrolet and Cadillac brand organizations and GM Financial will report to Ammann.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.