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Barra, who started at the company in 1980 when she was a student intern on the factory floor, rose through the ranks to play several important roles at GM, including vice president of global manufacturing engineering, head of the Hamtramck Assembly plant, executive director of competitive operations engineering, and its first chief of global product development. Most recently, she led vehicle development operations, strengthening some of GM's best-known brands and pushing for greater emphasis on fuel-efficient technology.
Her biggest supporter is said to be outgoing CEO Dan Akerson. In September, Akerson told attendees at a Detroit conference on leadership that "The Detroit Three are all run by non-car guys. Someday, there will be a Detroit Three that's run by a car gal." He hinted at Barra's appointment, saying, "There are an unbelievable number of talented women in automotive, certainly at General Motors."
In October, he told Reuters that Barra is "one of the best talents I've seen in my working career - not GM, my working career."
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