Cole said he believes GM's culture is ripe to be molded by a head coach after years of being ruled by kings.
"The management at GM has the desire to be coached, and Mary is ready to lead the team," Cole said. "Mary believes everyone inside GM is important, and that will filter through the company. There are talented people in GM ready to follow her lead."
Read MoreFierce headwinds: GM's past dragging on its future
Keller, who has often been highly critical of GM, said she thinks Barra can transform GM's culture. How?
"If she can use this as a seminal moment to convince everybody that this really is a company where everybody has to take individual responsibility, and most importantly, will be held accountable," Keller said.
The fact remains, however, that GM is packed with thousands of workers who were hired and worked in a culture where making numbers every quarter was the main focus.
Getting those workers, the core of GM, to focus first on the customer won't be easy, analysts say.
"The GM culture was stifling because people didn't talk to each other. They kept silent," Keller said. "They didn't transmit bad news because they understood what the reception was going to be to the bad news."