THE COSTCO CONNECTION: Did you ever
see yourself in the CEO’s chair?
MARY BARRA: No, I did not. I liked the
strategic parts of the business and leading
teams, but never saw myself in the CEO’s chair
until shortly before I was offered the opportunity. I really feel honored to lead the men and
women of General Motors.
CC: How do you describe GM’s corporate
culture and how is it different from ;; years ago?
MB: We’ve been on a journey for the last ;;
years to become a very customer-focused culture
that understands we don’t win until the customer
says we win. We’re much more agile and move
with a sense of urgency. We’re focused on the
leadership behaviors we have to demonstrate
every day to get to that culture of speed and
accountability and customer focus.
CC: How do you know what kind of cars
buyers are going to want in ;; years or even
MB: If you put the customer in the center of
every decision and say, ‘How can I solve customer
pain points or how can I improve the ownership
and driving experience?’ and then leverage the
technology and the knowledge we have in the
company, we can create vehicles and experiences CONTINUED ON PAGE 46
BY TOM BEAMAN
MARY BARRA was born the day before
Christmas 1961, the daughter of a
General Motors tool and die maker and
a part-time bookkeeper.
Barra’s interest in cars led her to
the General Motors Institute (now
Kettering University) in Flint, Michigan,
where she earned a degree in electrical
engineering in 1985. She later received
an MBA from Stanford University.
Barra’s GM jobs ranged from an
engineer in the Pontiac Fiero assembly
plant to senior vice president of global
product development. She was named
CEO in January 2014 and chairman of
the board of directors in January 2016.
Later that year, Forbes magazine named
Barra the fifth most powerful woman in
the world. She is the first woman to
lead a U.S. automaker.
Two weeks after Barra became CEO
she faced a challenge that would define
her early tenure—a recall of faulty igni-
tion switches that was to involve 2. 6
million vehicles and cost the company
over $2 billion. In testimony before
Congress and in messages to custom-
ers and employees, Barra took respon-
sibility for the recall and committed to
learning why it took years for the issue
to come to light. She created the new
position of vice president of global vehi-
cle safety, hired a former U.S. attorney
to conduct an investigation of the com-
pany’s actions leading up to the recall
and established procedures for custom-
ers to repair or replace affected vehicles.
In September 2014, Fortune mag-
azine wrote, “[Barra’s] approach is
modest and audacious at the same
time: She proposes to alter the mindset
by behaving differently every day than
any GM CEO has behaved in decades,
and through her example and a CEO’s
influence, to change the way everyone
else behaves every day.”
Seven years after exiting bank-
ruptcy, GM today appears to be firing
on all cylinders. The company, whose
brands include Chevrolet, Buick, GMC
and Cadillac, sold 10 million vehicles
worldwide in 2016, generating $9.43
billion in net income. The electric
Chevrolet Bolt EV was named 2017
North American Car of the Year.
To stake its claim in the growing
“mobility” space, GM last year launched
the Maven car-sharing service and
announced a long-term strategic alli-
ance with ridesharing service Lyft to
create a network of on-demand auton-
omous vehicles in the U.S. The com-
pany plans to invest $1 billion in the
U.S. in 2017 and to add more than
5,000 new jobs in the next few years.
And just last month, she took the
bold step of selling off GM’s struggling
European Opel and Vauxhall brands to
refocus on GM’s core business.
Barra was recently tapped by
President Trump to serve as an economic adviser—a role that will allow
her to be the voice of the auto industry
in critical decisions affecting the industry. She spoke to The Costco Connection
from GM headquarters in Detroit. The
following are edited excerpts.
NAME Mary Barra, CEO
and Chairman; @mtbarra
General Motors Company
QUOTE ABOUT COSTCO
“I am a proud Costco member.
We get The Connection every
month and I always look
through it.”—Mary Barra
and the future that the customer maybe can’t
clearly articulate today, but when they get here
they’re going to say, ‘This is exactly what I needed.’
CC: What are the leading technical advances
that we’ll be seeing in future GM cars?
MB: We have a strong foundation in connectivity because we’ve had OnStar in GM products
for over ;; years. At the end of last year almost ;;
million GM vehicles around the globe had ;G LTE.
The Bolt EV from Chevrolet is a great example of
electrification. You can go ;;; miles on a charge,
it’s affordable and it has great performance and
functionality. We’re also working very aggressively on autonomous vehicles for very specific
urban or sharing situations. Think about autonomous vehicles being able to pick you up and drop
you off and then you don’t have to go through the
frustration of getting from point A to point B. We
believe autonomous vehicles in the right environment can not only add value to the customer but
can make the driving experience safer.
CC: GM has appointed a chief compliance
officer to oversee a corporate code of conduct you
call “Winning with Integrity.” Tell us about that.
MB: Setting the right tone at the top with our
“Winning with Integrity” code of conduct is a
Costco members can purchase
a variety of vehicle brands—
including General Motors—
through the Costco Auto
Program. For more information
about the program and the
dealer vetting process, please
see the article on page 105.