DETROIT -- Twenty months ago, Alicia Boler-Davis was an assembly plant manager at General Motors. Today, the 44-year-old is one of the company's top 20 executives, reporting straight to CEO Dan Akerson.
As senior vice president for global quality and customer experience, she oversees 2,500 employees and has a voice on everything from future products to the setup of GM's call centers.
Her rapid ascent says as much about GM's game plan for success as it does about the fastidious engineer and Detroit native. Vehicle quality and customer care are key fronts on which GM is fighting to shed the baggage of its 2009 bankruptcy and to reclaim customers who long ago abandoned the automaker.
"We've got one chance to get people back into our cars and trucks and treat them right and retain them and grow market share," GM North America President Mark Reuss said in a recent interview. "I wanted someone with passion and a different set of eyes to look at how we create a customer experience that sets us apart."
By the time Reuss called on Boler-Davis, in early 2012, she had impressed her bosses by pulling off double duty as the vehicle chief engineer for the Chevrolet Sonic while she was manager of the Orion Township assembly plant in suburban Detroit where the car is built. It was a high-profile launch: GM overhauled its operations and labor agreement to contain costs in a bid to turn a profit assembling the Sonic, the only U.S.-built subcompact.