Holden's future was in her hands
Just hours after Holden's parent, General Motors, made history by naming Mary Barra as the first woman to ascend to the top job at a global car company, it pulled the plug on manufacturing in Australia.
The decision to exit Australia was signed off on by retiring GM chief Daniel Akerson, but Ms Barra - a GM insider who has spent 33 years with the car maker - would have been closely involved in key strategy decisions.
Since 2011, she has been the senior executive overseeing all GM's global product development. She is scheduled to take charge in January.
The 51-year-old has a mandate to drive change at the car maker, while her selection is a key moment in an industry long dominated by men.
"This is truly the next chapter in GM's recovery and turnaround history," Ms Barra told employees at company headquarters in Detroit. "And I'm proud to be a part of it."
At GM, Ms Barra has been an engineer, a plant manager and the head of corporate human resources. Mr Akerson said Ms Barra "brought order to chaos" in GM's vast product development organisation, mostly by removing bureaucracy and cutting layers of executives.
In a move where Holden was no doubt considered, she was also in charge of reducing the number of expensive, global vehicle platforms, and bringing new models to market faster and at lower cost.
During her tenure, GM has introduced competitive small cars and redesigned versions of its large model utes. Ms Barra has also been a champion of more fuel-efficient engines and lighter-weight vehicles.
The naming of Ms Barra also signals another new era for GM. The announcement came a day after the US Treasury Department sold the last of the GM stake it took in exchange for the company's bailout by the US government.
At the height of the global financial crisis, GM went bankrupt and needed a $US49.5 billion taxpayer-funded bailout to survive.
"Mary was picked for her talent, not her gender," Mr Akerson said in a conference call with the media.
But on a personal note, he said, promoting Ms Barra to become chief executive was an emotional moment for him.
Other challenges for Ms Barra include driving improvements in GM's product line-up. The company has overhauled many of its models since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, but its US market share remains stuck at about 18 per cent.
Other hurdles include fixing GM's troubled European operations and spurring more growth in China and throughout Asia. And while GM has been profitable for 15 consecutive quarters, it still lags behind competitors such as Toyota and Ford in overall earnings.
Ms Barra can often be found on the company's test track putting vehicles through their paces at high speed.