Amman was appointed CEO of the San Francisco-based autonomous driving startup in 2018 after GM purchased the company for over $500 million two years prior. Under Ammann’s leadership, Cruise deployed hundreds of self-driving prototypes on public roads in San Francisco, unveiled its Cruise Origin robotaxi and grew its employee roster from around 1,000 people in March 2019 to over 1,800 today.
Ammann was quietly dismissed from his post earlier this month, and according to Bloomberg, his sudden departure was due to a disagreement with Barra. While Mary Barra wanted to keep Cruise in-house and use its know-how to apply self-driving technology to production Cadillac and BrightDrop products, Dan Ammann wanted to spin the company off in an IPO and keep it focused on launching its own self-driving robotaxi business first and foremost. As Bloomberg writes, when Ammann “didn’t fall in line with that vision, it was over.”
A November meeting in which Barra laid out her vision for Cruise ultimately spelled the end for Ammann. Barra made it clear in the meeting that Cruise’s main purpose was to develop self-driving technology for GM, giving more value to GM shareholders, but Ammann kept pushing for the IPO and wanted more power to decide where the company should focus its time and resources going forward.
Barra later consulted with the GM board on Ammann’s future on December 7th before dismissing him on December 16th. The automaker put out a press release that day entitled ‘Leadership Changes at Cruise’, which unlike other similar GM media releases announcing executive departures, did not include any praise for Ammann and did not thank him for his service. The release also seemed to reference Ammann’s desire for Cruise to be spun off from GM, pointing out the advantages of the two entities remaining as one.
“By continuing to work together, GM and Cruise bring massive manufacturing and technological scale to autonomy that will rapidly drive costs down,” the press release said. “The integrated strategy will also maximize GM and Cruise’s total addressable market by leveraging synergies, leading to greater, more sustainable value for both GM and Cruise shareholders.”
When he left GM for Cruise, Ammann was given a compensation package that would have entitled him to receive $25.6 million in restricted stock if he executed an IPO, Bloomberg’s report also said. This would suggest GM was or still is interested in eventually spinning Cruise off in an IPO, but believed Ammann’s timing wasn’t right.
Kyle Vogt, Cruise founder, President and Chief Technical Officer, is currently serving as interim CEO of Cruise, but allegedly has no interest in maintaining the title going forward. A replacement for Ammann has not yet been named.