General Motors today named Mary Barra, 49, senior vice president, Global Product Development, to lead the design, engineering, program management and the quality of vehicles for GM’s 11 brands around the world.
Barra comes to the high visibility position once occupied by formidable car guys, including Tom Stephens and Bob Lutz from her position as vice president, Global Human Resources. Before that appointment in 2009, Barra had been vice president, Global Manufacturing Engineering. Both Lutz and Stephens carried the title of vice chairman, so Barra’s job has been downgraded in the latest GM reorganization.
Barra is basically unknown to the product and engineering experts who cover General Motors, which is not saying that she can’t do good things in the position. Success in product development is key of course to taxpayers recouping their investment in the reorganized General Motors Company. And while the company has had some recent product successes, it is by no means clear that GM can maintain and then increase its market share, particularly in the U.S. and Europe.
“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.”
When Akerson took over as CEO last August he said in a brief media question period that it was safe to assume that there won’t be any major management changes.
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 will lead the GM Product Development organization responsible for managing all global vehicle programs for GM. This includes global design, vehicle and powertrain engineering, program management and quality. With more than 36,000 members, her employees 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.”