Women have held top positions in auto marketing design and engineering, but never made it to the CEO spot, Gordon said. “The fact that none of them has run a major car company makes no sense,” he said.
Barra’s appointment should help GM because women now make or influence car-buying decisions. She’ll also help GM recruit the top engineering and business school graduates, many of whom are women, Gordon said.
Barra started with GM as an electrical engineering co-op student in 1980 when she attended what is now Kettering University in nearby Flint. She now heads purchasing and previously ran the company’s human resources operations. Before that she was a plant manager and executive director of engineering. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University.
Barra was among four internal candidates for the position, including Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann, North American President Mark Reuss and Vice Chairman Steve Girsky.
Ammann, 41, was named GM president and will manage its regional operations worldwide. He’ll also head up the global Cadillac and Chevrolet brands, as well as GM Financial, the company’s auto loan arm.
Reuss, 50, replaces Barra as head of product development and purchasing. Girsky, 51, will become a senior adviser and will leave the company in April. He’ll stay on the board.
Reuss will be replaced by Alan Batey, 50, as North American president.
Shares of GM fell 20 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $40.70 in Tuesday morning trading after the announcement.