GM’s Cruise Autonomous Driving Division Names Dan Ammann as New CEO

Ammann is responsible for securing to major investments, one from Honda and another from Japan's SoftBank.

General Motors’ Cruise self-driving car division has a new leader. Effective January 1, 2019, Dan Ammann will be Cruise’s CEO. He replaces Kyle Vogt, who co-founded Cruise as an independent startup. Vogt becomes CTO and president under the new arrangement. GM is leaning heavily on Cruise’s tech as it races rival automakers and tech companies to deploy production self-driving cars.

As GM president, Ammann spearheaded the automaker’s 2016 acquisition of Cruise, and has managed the relationship with Cruise ever since, the press release said. He recently secured two major investments for Cruise: one from Honda, and one from Japan’s SoftBank. The latter is also a major investor in Uber. Ammann’s appointment as Cruise CEO has been applauded by analysts, who view it as a sign GM is taking self-driving cars seriously, noted the Detroit Free Press.

Ammann joined GM from Morgan Stanley in 2010. The New Zealand native managed GM’s initial public offering (IPO) after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy. He appointed CFO in 2011 and became president in 2014.

Cruise currently tests prototype self-driving cars based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV in Michigan, California, and Arizona. The cars are built on the same Michigan assembly line as regular Bolt EVs, which GM has touted as proof that it will be ready to manufacture large volumes of autonomous cars when the technology matures. The automaker hopes to eventually launch a production self-driving car with no manual controls, likely for ride-hailing services.

News of Ammann’s appointment as Cruise CEO comes shortly after GM announced major staff cuts, plant closures, and the culling of many cars from its lineup. GM has said the cuts are being made to free up cash for the development of new technologies. Ammann is currently GM’s number-two executive, behind GM CEO Mary Barra, so shifting him to Cruise indicates GM will actually follow through on that plan.