Meet the woman who's now possibly the world's most powerful female auto executive: Mary Barra, chosen by General Motors today to run worldwide vehicle development. Whether it's the right choice for GM will take a few years to sort out.
Before today's announcement, Barra, 49, had been running GM's global human relations; prior to that she was vice president of GM's global manufacturing engineering, among other gigs. She's the first woman to hold the title of product chief, which entails overseeing 36,000 people and making the key calls about what GM builds and where they build it around the world. What's not on Barra's resume is a prior title in product development; she has been part of the teams making calls about vehicle production at GM, but never directly in charge.
The past two holders of the role at GM were Vice Chairman Tom Stephens, recently shuttled over to a corner called "Global Chief Technology Officer," and "Maximum" Bob Lutz.
GM's hasn't had much stability in its upper ranks since the 2008 bankruptcy; Barra's move was the latest by still-newish CEO Dan Akerson to stamp his own staff. It will take a couple of years for any big decisions Barra oversees to hit the 7.5 million vehicles coming out of GM every year. Until then, it may be impossible to know whether the dust kicked up in GM's executive suites comes from construction or demolition.