By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – General Motors’ new CEO Mary Barra says the key to the company going forward is innovation. “If I had to sum it up in one word, it’s accelerate.”

Previous CEO Dan Akerson had “righted the ship,” said Barra, and now it’s time to grow.

“You know we are no longer just looking for viability, but we’re looking for growth and leadership.”

The new CEO recently finished a meeting with 300 of the company’s managers, saying she wanted to make sure that all were aligned on the same goals.   Barra didn’t anticipate any major changes, saying that the current GM management team was very involved in setting the company’s goals going forward. She says she and GM’s new President Dan Ammann are on the same page when it comes to General Motors goals.

“Dan and I are perfectly aligned,” she said. “We spent a lot of time making sure we are perfectly aligned.”

Barra on Thursday discussed her plans and vision for the company with a dozen reporters who cover GM on a daily basis, including WWJ’s Jeff Gilbert.

Much discussion has been made of Barra’s role as the first woman to lead a major auto company.

“I never approached any job from ‘Oh, I’m a woman doing this job.’ I don’t think many man go, ‘I’m a man doing this job.’ I’m Mary doing this job,” she said.

It’s a job that Barra describes as collaborative, that will involve the entire leadership team — including former North America President Mark Reuss, who moves into Barra’s former position leading GM product development.

“Mark is hands down the best product guy in this industry,” she said.

GM has invested $10 billion in U.S. operations since emerging from bankruptcy.  Barra said she expected more investment.  She wouldn’t give specifics on that, or talk about whether that would mean any new jobs.

GM now has a strong foundation, says Barra, and now it’s time to grow from there.

“We need to make sure we are innovating,” she said. “My personal definition of innovation is something that ads value and delights the customer.”

GM is on track to turn its European operations around, Barra says, and grow in markets like China. She also sees customer service as an area where the company can distinguish itself from the competition.

While Barra says she’s “humbled, honored and energized” by her new position, she also understands that she has to deliver.

“I want to be valued for leading the team and the results we achieve.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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