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The First Female Global Head In Automotive History - A Change In The Industry?

The First Female Global Head In Automotive History - A Change In The Industry?

Posted On 17 Mar, 2014

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Late last year, Mary Barra became Chief Executive of GM. The Daily Mail greeted the news enthusiastically, writing; ‘Mary Barra, an engineer and mother of two teenagers, became the most powerful woman in the motor industry this week. And as the top female in such a macho, male dominated world, she will play a key role in shaping the vehicles all drive.

‘In fact, if you’re driving a Vauxhall – such as the latest Insignia saloon – she’s probably already played that role.’

But does this appointment really spell that much change? As a woman, of course Barra will bring a different perspective to the global car market, shaping and delivering trends that might alter how used cars develop as the years pass. But it’s perhaps too much to suggest this will revolutionise how cars work and are driven.

It turns out Mary Barra made her first overseas trip as GM’s new CEO to Opel headquarters in January 2014, where she met with employees, toured the assembly plant and visited the International Technical Development Center (ITDC).

Barra noted that GM is investing €4 billion in Germany and Europe through 2016, which will help bring 23 new products and 13 new engines to market: “We must remain focused on the customer and delivering great, innovative products to the market on a consistent and sustained basis,” she said. “That is how we will win here and all around the world.”

Words like these seem to point more to a leader that’s market and cost savvy, with the intelligence to lead and develop alternatives that will make motoring cheaper and safer for new and used car drivers, than to any major differences between male and female mindsets.

The Mail says, ‘Mrs Barra joined GM, aged 18, in 1980 and has been a ‘lifer’ with the firm, rising steadily, but determinedly, through the ranks over 33 years. She graduated with a bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University – then known as the General Motors Institute.’

This being the case, she evidently has the lifelong market experience and the knowledge to take control and guide one of the world’s top manufacturers along a different path.

In real terms, a new leader isn’t always going to spell massive changes for a manufacturer or for the used car market. But sometimes a change is good, and sometimes an individual can shake up the industry, to the benefit of all.

But for the moment, a little more time is needed to ascertain quite what Barry’s impact and lasting legacy are likely to be.

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