Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt retakes CEO spot after GM exec’s sudden departure

Kyle Vogt, who co-founded Cruise and ran the startup for years following GM’s acquisition in 2016, is back in charge.

Vogt made the announcement Monday via a tweet.

The formal announcement comes more than three months after Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, a longtime executive at GM who had been tapped as CEO in 2018, suddenly left the company. Vogt, who had been president and CTO, took over as interim CEO after Ammann left. Vogt will keep his CTO title, the company confirmed.

GM and Cruise have never provided details about why Ammann left, however, his departure was unexpected and came as a surprise to Cruise employees.

When Ammann was first named CEO in 2018, the move was pitched as a natural progression for a company aiming to commercialize. Ammann was at the center of GM’s initial investment and acquisition of Cruise. He oversaw GM’s relationship with Cruise. Ammann also came to Cruise with a specific skill set. When Ammann first joined GM in 2010 as vice president of finance and treasurer, his first task was to manage GM’s initial public offering. At the time, Ammann’s appointment signaled that GM might have been preparing to spin out Cruise as a publicly traded company.

Those commercialization targets ended up being more difficult to reach for Cruise — and the rest of the autonomous vehicle industry. Cruise scrapped its initial plan to launch a commercial robotaxi service in 2019. Since then, and like its rivals, the company has ramped up testing, hired more employees and navigated the regulatory framework in California.

Earlier this month, Cruise said it was opening up a free driverless robotaxi service to the public in San Francisco. That milestone helped unlock a $1.35 billion investment from SoftBank Vision Fund. SoftBank had previously committed to investing an additional $1.35 billion, on top of its initial $900 million investment, once Cruise was ready for commercial deployment.

For now, these rides are free and a public waitlist has been set up via Cruise’s website. Cruise cannot charge for rides in the state — which would mean it is finally a commercial enterprise — until it receives a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission.