General Motors announces Mary Barra as next CEO. Photo credit: General Motors

General Motors (NYSE:GM) announced its succession plan for CEO Dan Akerson today, naming veteran executive Mary Barra as the next chief executive officer and CFO Dan Ammann as the next president. Akerson, a one-time automotive industry outsider who helped the troubled automaker begin its business turnaround after the darkest chapter in company history, will step down as chairman and CEO on Jan. 15.

"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 in a message to employees.

Barra, GM's executive vice president for global product development, purchasing, and supply chain, has 33 years experience at General Motors and was elected by the board of directors to become the next CEO after Akerson pulled his succession plan ahead by several months. The company said Akeson changed his timing after his wife was recently diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

"With an amazing portfolio of cars and trucks and the strongest financial performance in our recent history, this is an exciting time at today's GM," Barra said in a press release. "I'm honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed."

According to The Associated Press, Barra, 51, will be the first female head of a U.S. car company. She started with GM as an electrical engineering co-op student in 1980.

This is indeed a good time to become CEO as the U.S. Treasury Department just announced it has completed selling its stake in the company, theoretically ending the "Government Motors" stigma that has surrounded GM. The government recouped $39 billion of its original $49.5 billion investment into General Motors; some studies suggest the move saved 1.2 million jobs throughout multiple industries in 2009. 

In addition toTreasury exiting its large position, General Motors now has the cash pile needed to refresh the oldest vehicle lineup in the industry; the company intends to refresh, replace, or redesign 90% of its vehicles by the end of 2016. 

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.