DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has promoted veteran engineer and human resources executive Mary Barra to lead its vehicle development efforts, another step in a management shakeup led by new Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.
Barra, 49, was named senior vice president for global product development on Thursday, replacing Vice Chairman Tom Stephens, who on Wednesday was moved to the new position of chief technology officer.
Barra's new job is arguably the most important at GM with responsibility for bringing cars and trucks to market that people want — quickly and with no problems.
Akerson, who has been concerned about GM's product development, said in a statement that Barra will bring a "fresh perspective to the critically important job of developing vehicles that delight global customers."
The new CEO told reporters last week that the company is a year behind in vehicles due to spending cuts while it went through bankruptcy protection in 2009. The company had only one new vehicle to unveil at the Detroit auto show last week, a place where it normally shows off several new models and concept cars that often go into production.
GM shares were down 40 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $37 in pre-market trading.
Barra, a veteran engineer who has been with GM for more than 30 years, was vice president of global human resources since 2009, helping the company through management turmoil that included four chief executives in less than two years. Before that she was a plant manager and held a number of engineering and management posts.
In her new post, she will lead a team with more than 36,000 members and also will manage the company's global alliances such as those in China and Korea. She'll be responsible for providing products to GM's 11 global brands.
"Knowing that today's global customer expects even more from their GM vehicle means we have to work harder than ever to exceed those expectations," Barra said in a statement.
Stephens, a 42-year GM veteran, lost responsibility for product planning in a shakeup last year, but remained in charge of global product development, leading the launches of the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car and the Chevrolet Cruze, GM's first decent compact car.
He told The Associated Press Thursday that in the chief technology officer role, he and his team will spot technology and social trends and make sure GM's technology keeps up with customer needs and stays ahead of the competition.
Barra's appointment is the latest in a series of executive changes that Akerson has made. He replaced the head of GM's OnStar unit on Tuesday. In December, he promoted U.S. marketing head Joel Ewanick to be global chief marketing officer, and named a replacement for Ewanick in the U.S. on Tuesday.