Assembly Blog

A New Era at General Motors

January 15, 2014

Today, Mary Barra becomes CEO of the world’s largest automaker. While it’s a milestone for women engineers, it also marks a “back to the future” moment for General Motors. This is the first time in decades that an engineer with a strong manufacturing background is at the helm of GM.

I suggested doing this five years ago (and many ASSEMBLY readers supported the idea), when GM was in the midst of its darkest hour (see “Time to Put an Engineer Back in Charge?”). In my blog posting, I questioned why one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies was routinely run by executives with backgrounds in accounting and finance, but with little or no experience on the plant floor.

I also pointed out that some of GM’s greatest leaders of the past had hands-on assembly line experience before they moved into the corner office.

For instance, Charles Wilson held an engineering degree and served as vice president in charge of GM’s vast parts manufacturing operation during the 1930s. Before joining GM in the early 1920s, William Knudsen established a reputation as a production whiz at Ford Motor Co. and later transformed GM’s assembly process. Even the legendary Alfred Sloan had a degree in engineering.

Barra has similar credentials. In fact, according to my research, she’s the first head honcho at GM with an engineering degree since Robert Stempel more than 20 years ago. Barra holds a degree in electrical engineering from Kettering University.

During her 34-year GM career, Barra has served as vice president of global manufacturing engineering; plant manager of Detroit Hamtramck Assembly; and executive director of competitive operations engineering. She most recently served as executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain.

Congratulations, Mary!

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Behind the Scenes at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant

People are the heart and soul of the 2012 Assembly Plant of the Year. This slideshow shows some of the men and women who build three different types of electrified vehicles alongside traditional gas-powered cars on the auto industry’s most flexible assembly line—Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, MI. Photos courtesy Ford Motor Co.


Anyone even thinking about advanced power tools needs to pick the brain of Eric Dees. He’s the Global Lean Business Process Leader for Ingersoll Rand Power Tools and Category Manager for their Assembly Tools Business.

More Podcasts

Assembly Magazine

october 2014 assembly

2014 October

The 2014 October Assembly includes our Assembly Plant of the Year winner plus much more. Check it out today!
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Assembly Plant Age

How Old Is Your Assembly Plant?
View Results Poll Archive


Welding: Principles & Practices

This text introduces students to a solid background in the basic principles and practices of welding.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


facebook_40px twitter_40px  youtube_40pxlinkedin_40pxgoogle plus  

Assembly Showrooms

ASSEMBLY Showrooms