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Mary Barra new CEO for GM

Mary Barra's career started on a GM factory floor as an intern more than 30 years ago.

General Motors has announced their current global product development head Mary Barra, 51, will take the CEO's chair in January, making her the first female to serve as CEO for a global car giant -- and causing a major reshuffle in the top offices at GM.

Akerson was planning to leave later in 2014, but will now step down as CEO and chairman on January 15 as his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. His role as chair of the GM board will be filled by Theodore (Tim) Solso, a board member since 2012.

Former Holden boss and current GM executive vice president and president of North America, Mark Reuss, will replace Barra as executive vice president of product development.

Another former Holden chief, Alan Batey, will move from the boss's chair of global Chevrolet and US sales to fill Reuss' current vice-president role.

Barra started at GM as an 18-year-old student in 1980, and went on to her first job as a plant engineer at the Pontiac factory where her father had long worked as a diemaker.

Barra, 51, has been in charge of product development and quality of all GM cars and trucks for 22 months, fostering collaboration and wringing costs out of the supply chain.

GM enrolled her in a development program, during which she earned an MBA scholarship and became the executive assistant to then-CEO Jack Smith, following which she has taken on roles mainly related to GM's engineering operations, with a stint also heading up human resources before becoming the head of product and then global vehicle development in 2011.

The announcement of her promotion to CEO came a day after the US government sold its remaining global financial crisis 'bail-out' stake in GM, with headlines that the jokes about it being 'Government Motors' no longer applied.

This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott