General Motors (GM) became the first major auto maker to name a woman as its CEO with today’s announcement that Senior Vice President for Product Development Mary Barra will succeed current CEO Dan Akerson when he retires. Barra, 51, is a GM insider who joined the company in 1980 and handled a wide variety of posts. She will emerge as one of the world’s most powerful and visible business leaders. Akerson, 65, moved up his timeline to retire by several months after discovering that his wife, Karin, has advanced stage cancer. He intends to step down Jan. 15. “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.” Barra was viewed as one of four potential successors for Akerson, along with GM North America President Mark Reuss, GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky and GM Chief Financial Officer Daniel Ammann. With her appointment, Ammann will become president of GM with responsibility for the company’s regional operations worldwide and Reuss will be slotted into Barra’s product development job. Alan Batey, GM’s global Chevrolet leader, will take Reuss’ post as president of GM North America, while Girsky is stepping down as vice chairman with oversight of the GM’s European turnaround, but he will remain on the board of directors. The announcement took place one day after the federal government disclosed it sold its last remaining shares of GM stock, which is down slightly with the overall market today.
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