GM's Barra, Tesla's Musk among Time's 'most influential people'

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra was named one of  the world's 100 most influential people by Time magazine Wednesday, alongside her competitor Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, whose company is the current electric vehicle leader.

The two were the only auto heavyweights to make the list of icons, innovators, artists and pioneers. Others to make the list: President Joe Biden, Britney Spears, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

Both Musk and Barra are working toward an all-electric future. Tesla is leading, so far, as the automaker with the most U.S. electric sales, but Barra and GM are pushing to be on top with plans to spend billions to enhance the technology and grow the Detroit automaker's EV lineup. 

Each recipient of the Time honor received a write-up from a peer. Biden's, for example, was written by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. 

General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra details the automaker's electric vehicle technologies and coming products in March, 2020.

Barra's was written by Ginni Rometty, former chairman, president and CEO of technology company IBM. Similar to Barra, Rometty was the first female CEO of the century-year-old company. 

"With fewer than 10% of Fortune 500 companies helmed by women, Marry Barra is a standout — and the most authentic leader I know," Rometty wrote in the Time piece. 

"One might think that more than four decades with the same employer — like her father before her — signals complacency, but Barra is orchestrating a major pivot at the 113-year-old automaker."

Under Barra's leadership, GM is focused on achieving zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. To get there, the automaker plans to spend $35 billion on EV and AV technology development through 2025. It's also planning to sell 1 million EVs globally in that same timeframe. 

Earlier this year, GM said it "aspires" to have a zero-emissions lineup by 2035. 

"An agent of change, her power lies in empowering others," Rometty wrote. "She urges women to go for it, knowing firsthand that too often they talk themselves out of opportunities simply because they don't meet an expansive set of predetermined criteria."

Barra said on Twitter she was "extremely honored" to be on the list, adding: "Our people are our greatest strengths, and I share this with my entire GM team working to make a better world for all."

In April, Time named GM one of the 100 Most Influential Companies for "engineering a greener future" with its electric vehicle plans. Musk's Tesla and Volkswagen also made the list for their electrification efforts. 

In this March 14, 2019, file photo Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio in Hawthorne, Calif.

Musk was called "a man who has devoted his life to breaking free of limits and constraint," in his write-up by author, businesswoman, Huffington Post and Thrive Global founder Arianna Huffington

"Musk isn’t just changing how we transport ourselves, he’s augmenting human possibilities," she wrote. "And by doing it all with his relentlessly optimistic, space-half-full showmanship, he’s offering a model for how we can solve the big, existential challenges in front of us."

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bykaleahall