DETROIT: FleishmanHillard is providing leadership transition communications counsel to General Motors after it named Mary Barra as its next CEO – and the first woman chief executive of a major automaker – on Tuesday.
On January 15, Barra will succeed chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, who will leave the role to spend time with his ill wife. Barra currently serves as EVP of global product development for GM, where she has worked for 33 years in engineering and assembly roles.
Barra has insisted on minimizing her profile until she begins the top job, said Selim Bingol, GM's SVP of global communications and public policy.
“[Barra] has made it clear that we need to respect that [Akerson] is still the CEO,” he said. “She will quietly reach out to stakeholders in the interim.”
Fleishman declined to comment on the internal and external strategy for Barra's transition to chief executive.
GM's Cadillac brand selected Fleishman in June as its strategic communications partner with the goal of engaging consumers in the fashion, luxury, and technology spaces. GM also works with Weber Shandwick and MSLGroup.
The transition announcement came one day after the US government sold its remaining shares of the automaker, leaving taxpayers about $10 billion short of the funds the Treasury Department spent on GM during the height of the financial crisis. Without the government bailout, nearly 1.9 million jobs would have been lost in 2009 and 2010, and federal and state governments would have lost $39.4 billion in tax revenue and payments, according to a study released Monday by the Center for Automotive Research.
Since emerging from bankruptcy, GM has been profitable for 15 straight quarters. It has also invested $8.8 billion in US facilities and added about 3,000 workers, bringing employment to 80,000 nationwide.
In October, GM reported third-quarter earnings of $698 million, down 53% from a year ago, after a slight increase in revenue to $39 billion. The automaker beat Wall Street expectations with the earnings statement.