Mary Barra inherits healthy General Motors from Dan Akerson

Article by Anita Panait, on December 17, 2013

For incoming chief executive Mary Barra, she is inheriting an “entirely new” General Motors that has recently managed to stave off the stigma of being owned by the United States government. Not only that, the current GM now boasts of an outstanding balance sheet, a clearer European strategy and a hit-making vehicle-development operation.

"This is a great company again," outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson told Barra and her new executive team in a ceremonial passing of the baton last week. "Don't lose it."

For Barra, the first woman ever to lead a global carmaker, this means that she would have to do more than just keep the current GM from reverting to the old one.  In over three years of being GM’s top honcho, Akerson has been trying to disentangle the carmaker’s bureaucracy and revitalize its brands – something that Barra needs to continue.

She also needs to define a vision for the carmaker, in which GM fully utilizes its size as well as engineering prowess to outdo and outsell rivals like Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen. "She'll need to get people in the organization behind a clear vision for the future," said automotive analyst Maryann Keller GM.

Setting the stage for Barra’s succession as GM’s top honcho are the results of Akerson’s tough decisions as well as the renaissance of vehicle development – strong North American profits, a rejuvenated vehicle lineup, GM’s rise as a leader in vehicle quality.

Likewise, Opel is showing some indication that will soon get rid of its loss-incurring ways. Also, GM recently made moves to boost its Southeast Asia operations while revamped the management team to get more from China.

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