General Motors CEO Mary Barra hasn’t been short on challenges since taking over the automaker in 2014. She rose to the top just as GM began to recover from its bankruptcy, only to be slapped with the ignition switch crisis and tough decisions in international markets.
Despite it all, Barra has prevailed and begun investing where the future is headed: self-driving cars. Under her direction, GM acquired Cruise Automation for $1 billion, and another $600 million has been invested this year. The New York Times outlined Barra’s goals in a new piece and she is determined to lead.
“We are very, very serious and intent on putting something on the road,” Ms. Barra said of the company’s automated vehicles. “We definitely want to be first.”
It’s a challenge to reinvent a traditional automaker into something much more, and GM is tackling the future head-on. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has been an integral part of the strategy, which foregoes having to retrofit autonomous vehicle technology to existing cars. The Bolt EV is already ready for such a revolution.
“These vehicles coming off the assembly line have been built from the ground up,” Kyle Vogt, Cruise Automation founder, said. “That’s a real car and not a mash-up of off-the-shelf parts that need to be integrated into the system.”
At the same time, Barra is feeling the heat over underperforming and arguably undervalued stock prices, despite the moves and shakeups that have been taking place the past few years.
“Does it frustrate me?” she said of the stock price. “Yes, but I want to do the right things over the long term to improve the business.”
But, wherever the industry goes, GM is ready to chase it or innovate new areas itself.
“We don’t go in to compete,” Barra said. “We don’t go in to have an entry. With every new product we’re doing, we are going in to win.”