DETROIT -- By the time her term as General Motors CEO ends, Mary Barra wants the automaker to be recognized as an undisputed technology leader rather than just an automaker and onetime ward of the federal government.
"That is my goal. That is what drives me," she said Monday during a Q&A at the CityLab urban advancement conference in Detroit.
GM has won some praise for a long-term vision that includes bold investments in electrification and autonomous driving technology.
But to fully change the narrative on GM, Barra will have to slog through some near-term operational headaches, the very type that landed GM in trouble a decade ago.
Wednesday's third-quarter earnings report could shed more light on those challenges, and how GM plans to navigate them.
Metrics such as sales, headcount and production capacity may begin testing the automaker's resilience heading into 2019 and beyond. Those are in addition to new challenges associated with GM's determination to lead the development and deployment of autonomous and electrified vehicles.
Both sets of challenges are headwinds Barra and GM's management team may want to address while the industry is level instead of on the decline. It's something Ford Motor Co. is undertaking with an $11 billion restructuring that includes reducing its salaried workforce of 70,000.
GM has a salaried workforce of 77,000 people, according to its 2017 annual filing. That's down from 90,000 a year earlier, before GM sold its European operations to PSA Group.
This year also marks the end of GM's plan to squeeze $6.5 billion in cost efficiencies from 2015 to 2018. It hasn't announced a new goal for after this year, but domestic headcount and plant utilization could be a place to start.