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Detroit takes the spotlight

New CEO Barra endures auto show swarm

By Tim Higgins
Bloomberg News

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DETROIT: Visitors to this week’s Detroit auto show could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a Mary Barra welcome parade.

Barra, a 52-year-old General Motors Co. lifer who takes over today as the company’s chief executive officer, unveiled the GMC Canyon truck at last Sunday’s pre-show festivities and was engulfed by dozens of reporters. She was swarmed again Monday when the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards went to a pair of Chevrolets released on Barra’s watch as product-development chief.

The first female CEO of a global automaker, Barra takes over at a company in its best fighting position in a generation. Her challenge will be to expand GM as rivals counter with similarly competitive lineups.

“The expectations are high — probably unreasonably high — for her,” said Michelle Krebs, an independent analyst who has been in the auto industry for more than 30 years.

Chevy’s first-ever sweep in the show’s awards — which went to its Corvette Stingray sports car and Silverado pickup — was an endorsement of Barra.

GM, Ford and Chrysler, after slashing costs and turning out some of their best vehicles in a generation, came within about 1/20th of a percentage point last year of posting market share gains in the same year for the first time since 1988, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


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