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Old Problems Still Likely to Dog New GM CEO Mary Barra

Behind Barra’s unlikely ascent from shop rat to chief executive.

by on Jan.16, 2014

GM's new CEO Mary Barra celebrates while watching GM sweep the 2014 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

General Motors moved into a new era this week as its first woman chief executive took over the reins from Dan Akerson, the gruff graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, who guided GM out from under government control.

GM veteran Mary Barra will likely face a level of unprecedented scrutiny, said her mentor and predecessor, as she assumes a control of a global company with both newfound momentum and an assortment of serious challenges – among the need to continue regaining share in its home market, a European subsidiary that has been operating deep in the red for 14 years, and increasing competition in the critical Chinese market.

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However, the 51-year-old Barra is no stranger to hard work. When she joined GM as an 18-year-old co-op student at GM’s new-abandoned Pontiac Motor Division, she followed her father, a die-maker and member the United Auto Workers Union, into the factories in Pontiac, Michigan.


GM Forecasts Profits to Rise in 2014

Maker credits new vehicles and general growth in global auto sales.

by on Jan.15, 2014

GM President Dan Ammann during the unveiling of the new Corvette Z06 on Monday.

With a new management team today taking office, its first dividend planned in nearly six year, and its stock already on the rise, General Motors has yet more news likely to make investors happy, the Detroit maker forecasting that its earnings are likely to rise “modestly” in 2014.

The maker credits a variety of factors that include an improving outlook for the overall global auto industry – but primarily due to a wave of its own new products that it hopes will yield increased sales and market share in key markets.

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“We continue to perform well in the two most important markets in the world, the U.S. and China,” said Mary Barra, who took over as GM’s new CEO today. “We’re taking advantage of our strength in these countries to restructure and make the investments necessary to grow profitably in other parts of the world.”


GM Will Halve Its Platform, Engine Count

Saving could top $1 billion annually.

by on Aug.10, 2011

New GM car czar Mary Barra.

General Motors plans to slash by half the number of underlying platforms it uses worldwide by 2018, while ordering a similar reduction in the number of engine variants in its line-up, the maker says.

It’s all part of an effort to reduce costs by as much as $1 billion annually, according to GM CEO Dan Akerson, who says the maker wastes far much time, effort – and money – on projects that either get canceled or which could share their basics with other GM programs.

“We’d be deep — halfway, two-thirds of the way through – on a project and we’d cancel it due to a weakening economy,” said the former Navy officer, who took the helm at GM early last year.  “The start-stop, on-again-off-again, herky-jerky nature of our product development process was very disruptive and it produced poor results.”

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Indeed, it has meant that many vehicles come out late and then don’t live up to customer expectations, added GM’s new product development czar Mary Barra.

“We end up being second, third, or at the back of the pack,” she said.


GM Moving Up Launch of 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

Maker racing to speed up product launches.

by on Apr.12, 2011

Chevrolet offers a hint of the 2013 Malibu.

General Motors will roll its next-generation Chevrolet Malibu into dealer showrooms four months earlier than previously planned – part of a full-court press to speed up the company’s product development program.

Production of the new midsize model, which will be sold as a 2013 model, is set to begin in January 2012, rather than May, as originally scheduled, according to an internal GM document quoted by the Detroit News.

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The move to speed up product development has been spearheaded by GM CEO Dan Akerson who, earlier this year, warned that the company could be left short of new models due to the delays created by its 2009 bankruptcy.

The U.S., Akerson warned, was going to be particularly hard hit.  Product development programs for emerging markets, notably including China, had felt less of an impact from the maker’s run through Chapter 11.