Ultimate car-guy cover boy salutes Barra

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Almost exactly 50 years after Lee Iacocca landed on the cover of Time (and, yes, Newsweek in the same week) another Detroit auto executive has made Time’s cover.

Kind of.

Beyonce is the real cover girl for the May 5 edition, but General Motors CEO Mary Barra is featured on subsequent “inside covers,” along with Robert Redford and Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player. All three made the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 Most Influential People. Iacocca, 89, wrote Barra’s accompanying blurb.

“In a perfect world, gender shouldn’t matter,” says the former Ford president and Chrysler CEO. “So it’s about time someone of Mary Barra’s caliber and experience was appointed to the coveted position of General Motors CEO.”

The two auto titans have never met. When Barra was born in December 1961, Iacocca had only just emerged as Ford’s youngest-ever vice president at 37. But Iacocca writes in Time: “I’ve read her background, and it is much the same as mine. She grew up in a working-class family, as did I, and fell in love with cars at a very young age. She fell in love with a red Chevy Camaro convertible, and I fell in love with the Model A my dad bought.”

Iacocca also is impressed with what he has seen.

“Only time (and the pundits) will judge Barra and the kind of job she’ll do for GM, its board of directors, its employees, the dealers and, most important, the people who buy its cars. If she remains as forthcoming as I’ve seen her on television with Congress, she will enjoy a long tenure at the helm.”

Barra’s real test? Will she ever again grace a cover of Time? Iacocca repeated on the outside front cover in 1980, 1983 and 1985.

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