In an announcement by General Motors, 51 year old Mary Barra will assume leadership of the company in January 2014. The announcement means that Barra will be the first female CEO of a global automotive company.

Subsequently, Dan Akerson has announced that he will be retiring as General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in January, and will turn over the reins of the company that he guided out of 4 years of U.S. government ownership. In a press release, GM stated that Akerson pulled ahead his succession plan by several months after his wife was recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

Mary Barra has risen within the ranks of General Motors, currently serving as the Executive Vice President, Global Product Development & Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. She is a member of the GM Executive Operations Committee and serves on the Adam Opel AG Supervisory Board. Barra had previously been Vice President, Global Human Resources.

Barra's GM career began in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 1990, Barra graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business after receiving a GM fellowship in 1988.

Barra will assume leadership of a company that is experiencing a strong sales momentum around the world.