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Mary Barra elected GM chairman

Twin roles: Mary Barra will be both CEO and chairman of GM, allowing her to put her stamp more completely on the automotive giant.

GM’s Mary Barra gets board vote of confidence with chairman appointment

7 Jan 2016

ONE-TIME electrical engineer Mary Barra’s rise to the top of America’s biggest motor company is complete – she has been elected chairman of the board, replacing Tim Solso who will stay on as lead independent director.

Ms Barra will take on the top job in conjunction with the CEO role she has fulfilled since she replaced Dan Akerson in January 2014, giving her undiluted control at the head of the company.

Board members gave her the unanimous tick of approval for the chairman’s job on the strength of her performance as CEO in the wake of the chapter 11 bankruptcy re-organisation, saying she had “set a clear vision for the organisation, formed a strong leadership team from inside and outside the company, delivered strong operating results and led the introduction of breakthrough vehicles and technologies”.

Among the thorny issues she has been forced to handle was the 2014 ignition switch recall scandal that resulted in the firing of 15 GM employees.

The unanimous appointment was announced by Mr Solso, who said the board had concluded it was “in the best interests of the company to combine the roles of chair and CEO in order to drive the most efficient execution of our plan and vision for the future”.

“With GM consistently delivering on its targets and on track to generate significant value for its shareholders, this is the right time for Mary to assume this role,” he said in a prepared statement.

Ms Barra said she was honoured to serve as chairman.

“With the support of our board, we will continue to drive shareholder value by improving our core business and leading in the transformation of personal mobility,” she said.

Ms Barra began her career with GM in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1985.

She served in a number of engineering and staff positions, including as plant manager for Detroit Hamtramck Assembly.

She went on to become GM vice president of global human resources and then vice president of global vehicle manufacturing, before being elevated to senior vice president of global product development in 2011.

From 2013, she was executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain – a position she held for less than 12 months before being appointed CEO.

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