GM names Barra first female chairman
DETROIT -- General Motors' board of directors has elevated CEO Mary Barra to the role of chairman, replacing Tim Solso, who will continue to serve as lead independent director.
“At a time of unprecedented industry change, the board concluded it is in the best interests of the company to combine the roles of chair and CEO in order to drive the most efficient execution of our plan and vision for the future,” Solso said in a statement Monday.
Barra, 54, whose historic rise to the top of GM has symbolized the growing influence of women in the U.S. business world, becomes GM's first female board chairman and will continue to be CEO.
Solso, a former CEO and chairman of diesel engine maker Cummins, has been chairman since January 2014, the same time that Barra took the CEO job. In the statement, he lauded Barra for setting a clear vision, building a solid executive team and producing strong operating results.
“With GM consistently delivering on its targets and on track to generate significant value for its shareholders, this is the right time for Mary to assume this role,” Solso said.
Solso’s appointment as chairman two years ago was viewed as a steadying force for a relatively young executive team of Barra, GM President Dan Ammann, CFO Chuck Stevens and product chief Mark Reuss, all of whom were promoted in the shakeup and adapting to new roles.
The board’s move to elevate Barra reflects growing confidence in GM’s strategic direction following its safety recall crisis in 2014, which included a faulty ignition switch linked to 124 deaths.
Barra generally was praised for her handling of the recall. She has since pivoted to GM’s plans for autonomous driving and mobility solutions, including GM’s $500 million pact with Lyft, announced Monday.
Solso, 68, also said GM’s 12-person board has “improved the overall governance of the company” over the last two years. He said the board “plans to broaden its active engagement with shareholders as we go forward.”
Barra said in the statement: “With the support of our board, we will continue to drive shareholder value by improving our core business and leading in the transformation of personal mobility.”