GM CEO Dan Akerson, speaking on Mary Barra's appointment as his successor: "We are viewed so much more differently than our competition."
MIKE COLIAS

Barra's chance to tell GM's story to the world

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Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.
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DETROIT -- Dan Akerson thinks the installation of Mary Barra as General Motors' top executive will do wonders for GM's image. I tend to agree.

But it'll take some effort.

Her appointment last month drew global buzz. Now GM has the chance to put that excitement and goodwill to work on GM's image by letting the world get to know Barra as the new, warm, refreshing face of a company that's viewed by many as a stodgy corporate monolith whose best days are behind it.

It's rumored that media outlets worldwide are lining up with interview requests, from the major U.S. networks to a Finnish TV station to Good Housekeeping magazine.

There's just one problem: Barra is very media-shy. Or at least that's the impression I got during her three years as GM's global product chief.

I'm not sure how else you'd explain why, during a three-year run in which GM unveiled groundbreaking cars such as the 2014 Corvette Stingray and 2013 Cadillac ATS, the head of product development was almost never the one on stage to lift the wraps.

Before the global media's infatuation fades, Barra has the chance to tell the story of GM's product renaissance; of how different the GM of today is from the one that careened into bankruptcy; of how much cutting-edge technology and innovation still flow from this faded city.

With 6,000 or so reporters and bloggers in town for the auto show next week, she'll have a prime opportunity to begin telling those stories.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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