GM's First Female CEO 'Has Gasoline in Her Veins'

Mary Barra is ultimate auto industry insider, with blue-collar roots

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 11, 2013 2:26 AM CST

(Newser) – Mary Barra's appointment as the first woman at the top of a major auto firm is a sign of changing corporate culture, but the new GM chief is a longtime insider with, as they say in Detroit, "gasoline running through her veins," the New York Times finds. The 51-year-old's father was a die maker for 39 years and she joined the company 33 years ago, entering a GM technical school at 18 and rising to senior vice president for global product development, responsible for design and engineering of GM cars worldwide, in 2011.

Barra—whose rise to the top is detailed in this chart from Quartz—has a record as a solid consensus builder with a keen eye for product development, and insiders say she hasn't lost touch with her blue-collar roots. "She's the real deal, very down to earth," the chairman of the Auto Harvest nonprofit group tells USA Today. "She was not raised in an aristocracy." The company stresses that she was picked for her talent, not her gender, and consumers will soon be able to judge that talent for themselves: The first vehicles designed and engineered on her watch are just beginning to hit the market, the Wall Street Journal notes.

Mary Barra, then General Motors Senior Vice President, Global Product Development, speaks at the debut of the 2013 Buick Encore last year.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
General Motors Senior Vice President Mary Barra is seen during presentation of the North American Car & Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
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