Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt resigns from GM-owned robotaxi unit

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Cruise founder and CEO Kyle Vogt has resigned from his role at the autonomous vehicle venture owned by General Motors, according to a company statement sent to CNBC on Sunday.

Jordan Vonderhaar | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cruise CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt has resigned from his role at the autonomous vehicle venture owned by General Motors, according to a company statement sent to CNBC on Sunday.

Mo Elshenawy, who previously served as executive vice president of engineering at Cruise, will now serve as president and CTO for Cruise, the company said. 

Vogt confirmed his resignation Sunday night in a social media post on X, formerly known as Twitter. He did not give a reason for the resignation, and said he plans “to spend time with my family and explore some new ideas.”

The departing CEO also offered words of encouragement, writing: “Cruise is still just getting started, and I believe it has a great future ahead. The folks at Cruise are brilliant, driven, and resilient. They’re executing on a solid, multi-year roadmap and an exciting product vision. I’m thrilled to see what Cruise has in store next!”

Vogt’s resignation follows a string of missteps by Cruise.

As CNBC previously reported, the company issued a voluntary recall affecting 950 of its robotaxis, and suspended all vehicle operations on public roads following a series of incidents that sparked criticism from first responders, labor activists and local elected officials, especially in San Francisco. 

In one serious incident in October, the human driver of another vehicle struck a pedestrian in San Francisco at night, tossing her into the path of a Cruise self-driving car, which then drove over and dragged her.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s deployment and testing permits for its autonomous vehicles after that incident. “When there is an unreasonable risk to public safety, the DMV can immediately suspend or revoke permits,” the regulators said in a statement at the time.

In orders of suspension the California DMV issued to Cruise, the regulators accused the company of failing to give a transparent account of what happened during the pedestrian collision.

Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Cruise to determine whether its automated driving systems “exercised appropriate caution around pedestrians in the roadway,” according to a filing on the agency’s website.

GM purchased Cruise in 2016. It then brought on investors such as Honda Motor, Softbank Vision Fund and, more recently, Walmart and Microsoft. However, last year, GM acquired SoftBank’s equity ownership stake for $2.1 billion.

GM execs, including CEO and Chair Mary Barra, had hoped the startup would be ramping up a driverless transportation network this year, and hoped Cruise would play a notable role in doubling the company’s revenue by 2030.

In October 2021, GM said it expected “new businesses” such as Cruise and its BrightDrop commercial EV business to grow from $2 billion to $80 billion during that timeframe.

According to its most recent quarterly update, GM has lost roughly $1.9 billion on Cruise between January and September 2023, including $732 million in the third quarter alone.

Barra also serves as chair of the Cruise board of directors. Former Tesla and Lyft executive Jon McNeill, a member of GM’s board of directors since 2022, was appointed vice chairman of the self-driving unit’s board following Vogt’s resignation.

Alex Roy from transportation consultancy Johnson & Roy told CNBC, “Responsibility starts at the top. If Cruise is going to survive, and they have great technology there, the CEO had to go.”

“I suspect at least one more high level exec will have to resign — anyone who made the call to obfuscate or omit information in communication with the California DMV,” he said. “In my opinion, Cruise has been too slow in taking steps to rebuild trust with staff, regulators and the public. Executive departures are table stakes.”

Vogt’s resignation comes roughly two years after he was reappointed as CEO, following an unexpected departure by Dan Ammann, a former GM executive, in December 2021.

Ammann, a former investment banker, began leading Cruise in 2019 after serving as GM’s president and chief financial officer before that. He was credited with the 2016 acquisition of Cruise.