GM’s next boss: Detroit’s first lady

IT MAY look like a firm stuck in one gear: General Motors’ market share in America, at around 18%, has not shifted in a while. But on December 10th its announcement that in January Mary Barra will take the wheel to become one of the most powerful executives in the car industry, and indeed corporate America, signals a shift up through the cogs. Three years ago she became one of the highest-ranking women in the business when she was named head of global product development at GM. Almost as striking as the fact that she will now take the top job in what has traditionally been a male environment is that she is a genuine “car guy”.In some respects this is a step backwards for GM. She is a company woman who has spent her entire career working for the carmaker. Dan Akerson, GM’s current chairman and chief executive, who retires next year, came to Detroit from other industries, as did his counterparts at Ford and Chrysler. That was a big change for a business distrustful of outsiders but in need of a new approach to leadership to oversee the turnaround of America’s carmakers after the ravages of a financial crisis and a crippling recession.As Mr Akerson noted, the new…

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