DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has picked a woman as its next CEO, naming product development chief Mary Barra as the first female head of a major U.S. car company.
Barra, 51, will replace Dan Akerson on Jan. 15. Akerson, 65, chairman and CEO, moved up his retirement plans by several months because his wife, Karin, is battling advanced cancer, the company said in a statement today.
With the decision, the GM board separated the board chairman and CEO positions. Barra will get a seat on the board, but Director Theodore (Tim) Solso will succeed Akerson as chairman. Solso formerly was chairman and CEO of engine maker Cummins Inc., and has been on GM's board since June of 2012.
"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," Akerson said this morning in a message to employees.
Barra, a 33-year GM veteran, currently has what many say is the most important job in the company — senior vice president for global product development. She's in charge of design, engineering and quality of all of GM's vehicles across the globe and has shepherded most of the company's recent new vehicle introductions.