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Cruise LLC, the self-driving vehicle company majority-owned by General Motors Co., has named founder Kyle Vogt its full-time chief executive.
Vogt has been the interim CEO since Dan Ammann quit Cruise in December over disagreements with GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra. At the time, GM announced that it would seek a permanent executive for Cruise.
“Some fun news: I’ve officially accepted the CEO position at Cruise again,” Vogt tweeted Feb. 28, confirming an earlier report from Bloomberg. “Where will we be in another decade? I can’t wait to show you.
Some fun news: I’ve officially accepted the position of CEO at @Cruise once again.
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) February 28, 2022
Putting Vogt on top of Cruise signals that its mission to develop autonomous vehicles and robotaxi services will remain on track even as GM management has taken a bigger hand in running the unit. Vogt founded the company before GM bought it in 2016 and has been a guiding force in its software development.
Now, he’ll lead Cruise on his next step, which is to launch his self-driving transportation business on the road and expand it to other cities. Cruise is giving people free rides in San Francisco and testing the service.
The company is preparing to launch its robotaxi service and charge fares in San Francisco, its main base of operations. Cruise has a license to run rides without a safety driver and is waiting for a nod to his application to the California Public Utilities Commission to charge for those rides.
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“The company is fortunate to be in this phase where it’s now about evolving,” Vogt said in a phone interview. “It’s a different chapter of the business, a different phase and I feel ready to take us forward.”
Once the company rolls out in San Francisco, the plan is to expand the autonomous transportation business and expand to other cities in the United States and around the world. Cruise said he plans to grow his revenue to more than $50 billion before the end of the decade.
Even if the CPUC licenses Cruise in the coming months, expanding the business to a large fleet of driverless vehicles could take time. The company needs to develop a fleet and a way to manage and coordinate the service.
“It’s one of those things where you can try to define all the requirements up front and imagine what the service is going to need to work properly, but there’s no substitute for real-world operation,” said said Vogt. “We are gaining that experience now.”
Autonomous unit growth is an important part of how GM plans to double revenue by 2030, the company said in October.
Vogt started the company in 2013 and was CEO of Cruise when GM acquired it in 2016. He held the position until Ammann, GM’s former chairman, transitioned to standalone business in 2019 .
When Ammann became CEO, Vogt took on the title of CTO and led software development. Its ties to driverless technology go back about two decades. Vogt went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and participated in the 2004 Darpa Challenge, in which universities and companies pooled their expertise to develop self-driving technology.
With Vogt leading development, Cruise has been in a race with Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and other startups to deploy self-driving vehicle services first.
Under Ammann’s leadership, Cruise has raised more than $6 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, T. Rowe Price and Associates, Honda Motor Co. and Microsoft Corp. GM invests about $1 billion a year to develop self-driving capabilities and eventually aims to start a fleet of robotaxis.
GM had given Ammann stock and financial incentives to take the company public within 10 years. Ammann wanted the company to go public sooner than Barra and wanted more autonomy in running the business — disputes that contributed to his dismissal in December, Bloomberg reported.
Investors have pushed GM to consider a Cruise spin-off as a way to create more value. Barra resisted, saying the company needed more time to develop the technology and the business before any form of separation.
Vogt is aligned with Barra on this point. He said the company has plenty of cash and access to capital from GM’s lending arm to buy vehicles from the automaker. Cruise will initially launch its service using self-driving versions of the electric Chevrolet Bolt and eventually will use the Cruise Origin, a four- to six-passenger vehicle designed solely for the robotaxi sector.
“We have a lot of funding, so things like an IPO aren’t critical at this point,” Vogt said.
GM hasn’t decided to keep Cruise in-house forever, Barra said at Wolfe Research’s investor conference last week. “We say that’s what we’re going to do for our investors over time to maximize value creation.”