It’s been a while since General Motors has been at the centre of attention during its home Detroit motor show for the right reasons; recession, plunging sales, bankruptcy filings and a hard-earned recovery have been more the order of the day in recent years.

Yet this year it is poised to be the story of the show, and not necessarily because of the metal on its stands. By appointing Mary Barra as chief executive late last year, it propelled itself in to the global spotlight, and now it has a balancing act on its hands.

In case you didn’t know, Barra is the first woman to head GM. That, in itself, is (sadly, you may argue) big news. Moreover, she’s a GM lifer – the daughter of a GM worker who spent his life as a dye maker, she joined the company at 18 and has spent the past 33 years working her way through the ranks. Here is the American Dream in action.