Mary Barra: The first woman to lead a major U.S. automaker

Mary Barra, currently global product development chief, will become the new CEO of the GM when current CEO Dan Akerson steps down in January.

REUTERS/Mike Cassese/Files
Mary Barra will become the new CEO of General Motors in January 2014. Here, she speaks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, in January 2012.

General Motors Co on Tuesday said Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson would step down next month and be replaced by global product development chief Mary Barra, who will become the first woman to lead a major U.S. automaker.

The day after the U.S. Treasury announced it had sold the last of its GM shares, the company said in a statement that Akerson, who is also the chairman, would leave on Jan. 15, pulling his planned departure ahead by several months. His wife was recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

Barra, 51, GM's executive vice president for global product development, purchasing and supply chain, was elected by the board as the next CEO and will become a director. Theodore Solso, 66, will succeed Akerson, 65, as chairman.

Barra has beein in charge of design, engineering, and quality control for all of GM's vehicles worldwide and has been behind most of the automaker's recent new vehicle rollouts. .

Sources told Reuters last month that Akerson might step down in 2014. He was appointed CEO just before GM re-entered public markets on November 2010, following a $49.5 billion government bailout and bankruptcy reorganization.

Speculation on his exit gained steam in April, when GM disclosed in a securities filing that his compensation plan had changed. The CEO did not receive any restricted stock units last year "in acknowledgement of the possibility of his retirement before the completion of the three-year vesting period," which would be in 2015.

In other management changes, GM said Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann, 41, would assume the title of president, while North American chief Mark Reuss, 50, would replace Barra as head of product development. Alan Batey, currently vice president of global Chevrolet, will replace Reuss as head of North America.

Vice Chairman Steve Girsky, 51, will move to a senior adviser role until leaving the company in April, GM said. He will remain on the board.

Solso is the former chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc and has been a member of the GM board since June 2012.

Shares of GM were down 0.1 percent at $40.85 in morning trading.

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