GM names Barra first woman CEO, to replace retiring Akerson

Sources told Reuters last month that Akerson might step down in 2014. He was appointed CEO just before GM re-entered public markets on November 2010, following a $49.5 billion government bailout and bankruptcy reorganization.

Speculation on his exit gained steam in April, when GM disclosed in a securities filing that his compensation plan had changed. The CEO did not receive any restricted stock units last year “in acknowledgement of the possibility of his retirement before the completion of the three-year vesting period,” which would be in 2015.

Some GM employees and analysts said Akerson gave Barra’s candidacy a boost in September when he said it was “inevitable” that a woman would one day run one of the U.S. automakers. GM has several women executives in senior management as well as four women on its board.

With 33 years of experience at GM, Barra has risen through a series of manufacturing, engineering and senior staff positions, and is currently in charge of reducing the number of platforms on which GM builds its vehicles. A source close to Akerson’s thinking who asked not to be identified said the CEO valued Barra highly for “bringing order to chaos” in the product development process.

“With an amazing portfolio of cars and trucks and the strongest financial performance in our recent history, this is an exciting time at today’s GM,” Barra said in the company statement. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

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