DETROIT (WWJ) – General Motors has named Mary Barra as its new CEO to succeed Dan Akerson, who will step down Jan. 15, 2014.

WWJ Auto Beat Reporter Jeff Gilbert said GM confirmed the news Tuesday morning. It’s the first time a woman has ever been named CEO of a car company.

While previously working as GM’s Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, 51-year-old Barra was responsible for keeping her foot on the pedal of the automaker’s 11 global brands.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Akerson had nothing but praise for his successor Barra.

“Her ability with people, her understanding of our internal machinations — all around,” Akerson said. “And Mary went into an organization, quite frankly, four years ago that was in chaos.”

Akerson responded to talk of the automaker being an “old boys club.”

“Look, Mary was not picked because of her gender,” Akerson said. “I’m always looking for talent, in the company, outside the company — we’ve mixed and matched from internal and longtime GM professionals. Mary’s one of the most gifted executives I’ve met in my career.”

Akerson, 65, was planning to leave, but moved up his retirementicon1 GM Names Mary Barra As CEOdate after his wife was recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

“I will leave with great satisfaction in what we have accomplished, great optimism over what is ahead and great pride that we are restoring General Motors as America’s standard bearer in the global auto industry,” Akerson said earlier, in a written statement to employees.

Barra, who grew up in Waterford, came from a GM family and has spent her entire career with the automaker, rising through a series of manufacturing, engineering and senior staff positions.

In 1990, Barra graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business after receiving a GM fellowship in 1988. She began her career with GM 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.

GM says Barra is a leader in the company’s ongoing turnaround, revitalizing the company’s product development process, resulting in the launch of critically acclaimed new products while delivering record product quality ratings and higher customer satisfaction.

“With an amazing portfolio of cars and trucks and the strongestfinancialicon1 GM Names Mary Barra As CEO performance in our recent history, this is an exciting time at today’s GM,” Barra said in a statement. “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.”

The Board also named Tim Solso to succeed Akerson as chairman. Solso, 66, is the former chairman and CEO of Cummins, Inc., and has been a member of the GM Board since June 2012.

Dan Ammann, 41, executive vice president and chief financial officer, was named company president and will assume responsibility for managing the company’s regional operations around the world. The global Chevrolet and Cadillac brand organizations and GM Financial will also report to Ammann.

Ammann will retain CFO responsibilities at least through the release of the company’s fourth quarter and full-year 2013 results in early February 2014. His replacement as CFO will be named later.

Mark Reuss, 50, executive vice president and president, North America, will replace Barra as executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. Alan Batey, currently senior vice president, Global Chevrolet and U.S. Sales and Marketing, will replace Reuss and is named Executive Vice President and President, North America.

The company also announced that Steve Girsky, 51, vice chairman, Corporate Strategy, Business Development and Global Product Planning, will move to a senior advisor role until leaving the company in April 2014. He will remain on the GM Board of Directors.

Akerson was named GM Chairman and CEO on September 1, 2010 after joining GM in 2009 as a member of its Board of Directors. Under Akerson’s leadership, GM made swift progress as the company transformed from being majority owned by U.S. Treasury to being publicly tradedicon1 GM Names Mary Barra As CEO and investment grade rated.

“My goals as CEO were to put the customer at the center of every decision we make, to position GM for long term success and to make GM a company that America can be proud of again,” Akerson said. “We are well down that path, and I’m certain that our new team will keep us moving in that direction.”

Since the company’s November 2010 Initial Public Offering, GM has recorded 15 consecutive quarters of profitability, has earned this year the best overall initial vehicle quality scores of any auto manufacturer, and has re-invested nearly $9 billion and created or retained more than 25,000 jobs at its U.S plants.

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