Mary Barra’s ‘The Long Game’: Winning the Electric Car Race

Ms. Barra, 60, the daughter of a GM mold maker, grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, and began an internship at a GM factory at age 18, while at the company’s technical college (now Kettering University) Study electrical engineering. She earned an MBA from Stanford University through a GM scholarship. Since entering management, she has held key positions in global manufacturing, human resources, product development and supply chain management.

In January 2014, she succeeded Daniel F. Akerson as CEO, becoming the first woman to lead a major automotive company. Ms. Barra guided GM through a scandal sparked by a defective ignition switch linked to crashes that killed more than 100 people. Then she made a series of decisions that showed GM, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, was not the conservative, clunky giant that consumers and investors have known for a century.

Her decision to exit Europe, a once unthinkable move, is a slow-growing, low-margin region where GM has been losing money for 20 years. GM sold its European operations to France’s Peugeot, which is now part of Stellantis. The sale includes the Opel division, which has been owned by General Motors since 1929.

Spinning off money-losing businesses that have been tolerated for years “helps to change the whole mindset,” she said. “The whole company is saying, ‘Well, it’s a new day.'”

GM, which has long prided itself on developing its own technology, also acquired Cruise Automation, a self-driving car startup. In another precedent-breaking move, GM brought in outside investors, including Honda and T. Rowe Price, to share the cost and risk of spending billions on self-driving cars.

Along the way, Ms Barra developed a close working relationship with Mr Royce, who was a candidate for the top job in 2014. He also spent his career at General Motors and followed his own father, Lloyd Reuss, a former president of the company.


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