GM Names Mary Barra as CEO, First Women to Head Car Company - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

GM Names Mary Barra as CEO, First Women to Head Car Company

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Mary Barra Mary Barra

DETROIT - For the first time, a woman will be the head of a major U.S. car company.  General Motors has picked Mary Barra as its next CEO.

She's currently the company's product development chief, and she's worked for GM for 33 years.
The company says Barra will replace Dan Akerson in mid-January.  According to GM, Akerson is moving up his retirement plans by several months because his wife is battling advanced cancer.

For nearly three years, Barra has held what many say is the most important job in the company -- senior vice president for global product development.  She's in charge of design, engineering and quality of all of GM's vehicles across the globe.

Under her direction, the company has rolled out brawny new full-size pickup trucks and the Chevrolet Impala full-size car, which earned the highest score for a sedan in testing by Consumer Reports.  She also led development of the new Chevrolet Corvette.

A University of Michigan business professor, Erik Gordon, says Barra's appointment should help GM because of the number of women who make or influence car-buying decisions.