The daughter of a GM toolmaker, Ms. Barra, 60, grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan and began interning at a GM plant at age 18 while studying electrical engineering at the company’s engineering school, now Kettering University. studied. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford on a GM scholarship. Since joining the ranks, she has held senior positions in global manufacturing, human resources, product development and supply chain management.

In January 2014, she succeeded Daniel F. Akerson as managing director and became the first woman to head a large car company. Ms. Barra led GM through a scandal that resulted from an ignition switch failure linked to accidents resulting in more than 100 deaths. Then it made a series of decisions that showed that recently emerged from bankruptcy General Motors was not the conservative, lumbering giant that consumers and investors have known for a century.

In a move that would previously have been unthinkable, it decided to exit the European market, a slow-growth, low-margin region where GM had been losing for two decades. GM sold its European operations to France’s Peugeot SA, now part of Stellantis. Included in the sale was the Opel division, owned by GM since 1929.

The dissolution of loss-making companies that had been tolerated for years “helped change the whole mindset,” she said. “The whole company was like, ‘Well, that’s a new day.'”

GM, which has long prided itself on developing its own technology, also acquired an automated vehicle start-up, Cruise Automation. In another landmark move, GM has brought in outside investors, including Honda and T. Rowe Price, to share the costs and risks of spending billions of dollars on self-driving vehicles.

Along the way, Ms. Barra forged a close partnership with Mr. Reuss, a contemporary who ran for the top post in 2014. He too spent his career at GM, following his own father, Lloyd Reuss. a former president of the company.



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