GM tapped Mary Barra as its head of global product development

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 22, 2011

Mary Barra was named General Motors Corp.’s head of global product development, succeeding Tom Stephens, who was recently named GM’s global chief technology officer. The 49-year-old Barra is the first woman to hold the top product development job at GM. Since 2009, she has served as vice president of global human resources for GM – an important post as GM restructured and emerged from bankruptcy protection.

An engineer, Barra was also head of global manufacturing engineering for GM, manager of the automaker's Detroit Hamtramck assembly plant, and executive director of competitive operations engineering.

Barra will assume GM's product development efforts at a critical time. While sales of GM's four U.S. brands are sharply rebounding, GM’s lineup, particularly in the U.S. market, faces new challenges and product gaps over the next few years. GM CEO Dan Akerson said that Barra will bring a fresh perspective to the critically important job of “developing vehicles that delight global customers.”

He added that Barra’s broad experience in engineering, manufacturing and staff functions; combined with the ability to collaborate and build strong relationships will enhance the company's ability to deliver the products that consumers are demanding. GM seeks to gain U.S. market share and enter new market segments in growing markets outside the U.S. like India, Brazil, China and Russia.

GM recognized Barra’s efforts in bringing diverse groups together for a shared goal in 2009, when she was named vice president for Global Human Resources. This role included introducing changes in GM culture during its restructuring. Prior to this post, Barra was vice president for Global Manufacturing Engineering and held a number of engineering and staff positions.

She had been the plant manager for Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant, executive director of Competitive Operations Engineering, and general director of Internal Communications for GM North America. Barra’s career in GM started in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division.

She finished university with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 1988, Barra was granted a GM fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In 1990, Barra completed her Masters in Business Administration course. She is currently a member of the Kettering University Board of Trustees and of the Inforum Center for Leadership Board of Directors.

She is also Key Executive for Stanford University. In 2005 and 2010, Automotive News named Barra as one of the “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.” In 2010, Barra was granted Kettering Alumni Association's Management Achievement Award for her contributions in the field of management. In her new role that will take effect on Feb. 1, Barra will still report to Akerson and serve on the Executive Committee.

Press Release

GM Appoints Mary Barra to Lead Global Product Development

General Motors today named Mary Barra senior vice president, Global Product Development, to lead the design, engineering, program management and quality of vehicles for the company's 11 brands around the world.

"Mary will bring a fresh perspective to the critically important job of developing vehicles that delight global customers," said Dan Akerson, GM Chairman and CEO. "Her broad experience in engineering, manufacturing and staff functions, combined with the ability to collaborate and build strong relationships will enhance the company's ability to deliver the products today's consumers demand."

Barra will lead the Product Development organization responsible for managing all global vehicle programs for GM. In this position, she will continue to focus on the customer in the areas of global design, vehicle and powertrain engineering, program management and quality with the goal of delivering the world's best vehicles. With more than 36,000 members, her team will also manage global strategic product alliances.

"Knowing that today's global customer expects even more from their GM vehicle means we have to work harder than ever to exceed those expectations," said Barra. "I'm excited by the opportunity associated with this new challenge and pleased to be joining such a strong team with deep technical knowledge and experience."

Recognized for bringing diverse groups together for a common purpose, Barra was appointed vice president, Global Human Resources in 2009, to initiate change in the company's culture during the largest restructuring in GM's history. Prior to this appointment, she had been vice president, Global Manufacturing Engineering. Barra has also held a number of engineering and staff positions, including plant manager, Detroit Hamtramck Assembly Plant; executive director of Competitive Operations Engineering; and general director of Internal Communications for GM North America.

Barra began her career with General Motors in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 1988, Barra received a GM fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business and in 1990 graduated with an MBA in Business Administration.

She serves on the Kettering University Board of Trustees and Inforum Center for Leadership Board of Directors. Barra is also Key Executive for Stanford University.

Barra was named one of Automotive News' 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry" in 2005, and again in 2010. In 2010, she also earned Kettering Alumni Association's Management Achievement Award for her specific contributions with positive and lasting effects in the field of management.

Barra, 49, will continue to report to Akerson and serve on the Executive Committee. Her move becomes effective Feb. 1.

A successor for Barra in Global Human Resources will be announced at a later date.

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