Cruise co-founder named CEO once again after unexpected departure

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Cruise Automation COO Dan Kan (l to r), Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt and General Motors President Dan Ammann Tuesday, November, 20, 2018 at Cruise Automation offices in San Francisco, California. 

Source: Noah Berger | General Motors

In naming a new CEO of self-driving company Cruise Monday, majority-owner General Motors is handing the firm back to one of its original founders.

Kyle Vogt, who co-founded Cruise and ran the start-up for years following GM’s acquisition in 2016, has once again been named CEO of the company. He announced the appointment Monday via social media, and it was later confirmed by a Cruise spokesman.

Vogt replaces Dan Ammann, a former president of GM, who was unexpectedly ousted from Cruise in December. Ammann was reportedly let go from Cruise by GM CEO and Chair Mary Barra, who also chairs Cruise’s board, over disagreements in strategy, including when to take the company public.

“Cruise and GM, we’re really totally aligned now on accelerating the joint autonomous vehicle strategy that we outlined at our recent investor day,” GM President Mark Reuss told CNBC a day after Ammann left the company.

Returning the company to Vogt, who had already been serving as interim CEO, comes at a pivotal time for the company.

Cruise is in the midst of securing final approval to commercialize a ride-hailing fleet of autonomous vehicles following years of testing in San Francisco. It’s also growing the operation, with plans for the company to generate billions in revenue this decade.

“Kyle certainly knows the company … Hopefully during Ammann’s tenure he had a chance to work closely with him and learn more about operating a company this size,” said Guidehouse Insights principal analyst Sam Abuelsamid. “If GM was willing to give him back the CEO position on a permanent basis, they presumably felt that he had learned enough in the last several years that he could handle the job now.”

Since acquiring Cruise, GM has invested billions in its operations and brought on investors including Honda Motor, Softbank Vision Fund and, more recently, Walmart and Microsoft.

Vogt will retain his prior positions of chief technology officer and president of the company.


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