The unchosen few

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It didn't take long for the horse race whispers to start after the Sept. 1, 2010, arrival of GM CEO Dan Akerson. He was 61 and, by his own admission, was appointed as a "transition CEO." Mary Barra, then human resources chief, vaulted into the conversation in January 2011, when Akerson put her in charge of product development. She emerged as a serious contender amid a transformation of GM's lineup, culminating in her appointment last week as the next CEO. Here's a look at the other three executives who were on the short list.

Dan Ammann

• Age: 41

• Current role: CFO

• New role: President

Ammann was thrust into the CFO job in April 2011 at age 38, after the abrupt departure of former finance chief Chris Liddell.

Since then, he has helped execute GM's "fortress balance sheet" strategy of carrying little debt and ample cash, while earning praise among Wall Street analysts as a smooth operator with an outsider's view of   GM's complexities. He has kept a high media profile since the succession race began in earnest, burnishing his car-guy credentials.

Giving Ammann the president job would seem to quickly quell any risk of his bolting. The job is a clear No. 2 role and will give him ample operational experience, which is his biggest resume gap.

Steve Girsky

• Age: 51

• Current role: Vice chairman and head of corporate strategy

• New role: Senior adviser and a director

In 2009, Girsky, a wisecracking New Yorker, was a GM director in Detroit, helping with restructuring plans. "I told my wife I'd be home in six months," Girsky told Automotive News in 2011. But in late 2009, the board gave the CEO post to Ed Whitacre, a folksy Texan whom Girsky had befriended.

"Ed says, 'You're with me on this, right?'" Girsky said. "I laughed and said, 'I'd better call my wife back up.'"

In late 2011, Akerson dispatched him to Europe to restructure Opel. Girsky will get a big share of the credit if Opel's turnaround holds.

Girsky's diverse resume — Wall Street analyst, top UAW adviser, GM vice chairman — makes him highly marketable for a host of jobs, assuming they are in New York.

Mark Reuss

• Age: 50

• Current role: President of GM North America

• New role: Executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain

Reuss presided over GM's profit engine during its four-year rebound from bankruptcy. GM's brands have won accolades for customer satisfaction, and a big swath of its dealership network has been transformed into sleek, modern stores.

Reuss grew more comfortable in the world of dealers and monthly sales calls. But it's no secret that product is his passion. At GM's big product unveilings in recent years, Reuss was often the one on stage pulling off the wraps.

If any of the three runners-up had reason to feel passed over, it's Reuss, who arguably had the most complete resume. Officially, Reuss says he's excited to get back to making great cars and trucks. Many GM engineers and designers are probably happy to hear it.

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