Today marks the 10th anniversary of Mary Barra’s tenure as GM CEO, the second-longest tenure of any GM CEO after the company’s founder. Mary Barra took the helm in 2014 after the departure of the previous CEO, Dan Akerson, becoming the first female leader of a major automaker. Barra was elected to the position by the GM Board of Directors, previously serving as the executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, among several other positions. Barra began working at General Motors in 1980 at the age of 18 checking body panels and hoods, later holding several engineering and administrative positions on her path to CEO.
Following her election to CEO, Barra was featured on the cover of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”, while Fortune magazine recognized Mary Barra as the most powerful woman in business.
During her tenure as CEO, Barra has faced several challenges, including management of GM’s ignition switch defect recall, which included roughly 30 million vehicles and was attributed to 120 fatalities, leading to a massive restructuring of GM’s safety operations. More recently, Barra has been faced with challenges at the automaker’s autonomous vehicle technology division, Cruise. Back in October, a Cruise vehicle was involved in an incident wherein a pedestrian was struck by an adjacent human-driven vehicle and then dragged by the autonomous vehicle for 20 feet. The incident launched a serious of investigations into Cruise and its business practices, resulting in a massive restructuring of the company, the departure of its cofounders and leadership, the grounding of its autonomous vehicle fleet, and revocation of its autonomous technology testing permit.
Meanwhile, General Motors continues to pursue its transition all-electric vehicles, despite slowing demand for EVs and a series of production issues. Barra announced in 2021 that GM would move its light-duty fleet over to all-electric powertrains by 2035 with billions of dollars in investments. Although Mary Barra maintains that GM will continue to pursue the 2035 transition target, the company has walked back on some of its EV goals, including production of 400,000 new EVs in North America by the mid-2024 timeframe.
Despite these headwinds, GM has seen record profits under Barra, while also beating Wall Street forecasts in 34 of the previous 35 quarters. Looking ahead, Barra states that she is not ready to retire yet.