Dan Ammann, Cruising Man; GM Prez Sent to Autonomous Group

Even though GM is no longer serious about the Cruze, it appears to be very serious about Cruise. For those with short memories, Cruise Automation is The General’s unit that focuses on autonomous cars.

News has broken that current GM president Dan Ammann will take over as CEO of Cruise, pushing aside current CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt, who’s booted down the ladder to Chief Technology Officer. All this is expected to take place on January 1st, 2019.

Some outlets are reporting that Vogt was having a hard time meeting targets, but hard proof of that assertion remains scarce on the ground. For now, all hands are spouting positive PR sound bites. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has said in the past that Cruise is the key to its future.

“As we move toward commercial deployment, adding Dan to the strong team led by Kyle is the next step,” Barra said in a statement. Ammann had previously worked closely with Vogt and Cruise in his GM role.

Cruise has been testing a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolts and has become a chief rival to Alphabet’s Waymo in the race to introduce widespread autonomous tech. Waymo plans to launch its robo-taxi service in Phoenix before year’s end. In the time since GM bought Cruise in a deal worth about $1 billion, Cruise has attracted investment from SoftBank and Honda, with whom it’s sharing a self-driving vehicle development project. Autonomous driving makes for strange bedfellows.

GM touts the value of Cruise at $14.6 billion. When it bought the place, it had about 40 employees on the payroll. Today, that number stretches to more than 1000. Plans are afoot to create 200 more jobs in the Seattle region. Talking heads are speculating GM will eventually spin off Cruise.

This management shakeup also means that GM’s global regions and GM Financial will report directly to Barra now instead of Ammann. As GM president, Ammann spearheaded the 2016 Cruise acquisition and, among his other global responsibilities, oversaw GM’s relationship with Cruise. He is deeply familiar with Cruise’s business and technology and its team. If reports of targets not being met are true, this move puts Ammann a lot closer to the action where he can keep an eye on things.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com