Cruise founder, ex-CEO to be permanent leader of self-driving company

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Cruise LLC's next chief executive officer will be Kyle Vogt, the former CEO who's been acting as interim chief of the self-driving company since the abrupt departure of Dan Ammann. 

Vogt, 36, who is also a co-founder of Cruise, announced the "fun news" Monday on Twitter: "I have no doubt it will be a difficult challenge given our very ambitious plans, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything more important or more fun. I’m never going to have trouble getting out of bed."

Cruise LLC has named Kyle Vogt its next CEO. Vogt founded Cruise in 2013 and was previously CEO.

The news comes as Cruise, which is majority-owned by General Motors Co., is targeting commercial deployment of its driverless taxi service this year and has started offering free rides in San Francisco to consumers. Cruise and GM recently filed an application with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to build and deploy the electric, autonomous Cruise Origin shuttle. 

GM announced in mid-December that Ammann, the former president of the Detroit automaker, was leaving Cruise after leading the company since January 2019. Sources told The Detroit News at the time that Ammann and CEO Mary Barra had divided visions for Cruise's future. Ammann wanted to see a more independent Cruise that could be spun off while GM leadership wanted to keep the two companies more aligned. 

Vogt founded Cruise in 2013 "to fulfill a childhood dream of making self-driving cars a reality," according to the company's website. GM acquired Cruise in 2016 and in late 2018 named Ammann to the CEO position at Cruise; Vogt became the president and chief technology officer. 

"As a founder, the chief technology officer and a Cruise board member, Kyle has an excellent mix of expertise and passion to lead Cruise into its next chapter," GM spokesman Darryll Harrison said in a statement. "We are excited to continue to work with the Cruise team and work together to accelerate and scale the responsible deployment of autonomous vehicle technology now and into the future."  

With investments from GM, Honda Motor Co., Microsoft Corp., Walmart Inc. and others, Cruise's valuation  was more than $30 billion as of last year. GM at its Investor Day event last year said it projects Cruise could deliver annual revenue of $50 billion by decade's end. 

Before founding Cruise, Vogt was a co-founder at Twitch, an interactive livestreaming service, which Amazon acquired for $1.1 billion. 

"How do I know I can run a company like @Cruise?," Vogt tweeted. "To start, I’ve made and learned from pretty much all of the common mistakes in my 15 years as a startup leader already, so this isn’t my first time around the block. And putting people in driverless cars is also a lifelong dream for me. I will never give up."

Barra congratulated Vogt on Twitter: "The Cruise board has full confidence in your ability to lead @Cruise, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future!"

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bykaleahall