Cruise co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt resigns

Kyle Vogt, the serial entrepreneur who co-founded and led Cruise from a startup in a garage through its acquisition and ownership by General Motors, has resigned, according to an email sent to employees Sunday evening that TechCrunch has viewed.

In a separate internal email, also viewed by TechCrunch, GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra announced that Mo Elshenawy, who is executive vice president of engineering at Cruise, will serve as president and CTO for Cruise. Craig Glidden, a Cruise board member and GM’s EVP of legal and policy who was recently put in charge of as chief administrative officer at Cruise, will continue in that role. Jon McNeill, a member of GM’s board, has been appointed vice chairman of the Cruise board. McNeill, who joined the Cruise board recently and was previously chief operating officer at Lyft and president of Tesla, will now serve alongside Cruise Board Chair Mary Barra. A statement from a Cruise spokesperson confirms Barra’s email.

As of Sunday, no one had been named to the CEO spot.

The executive shakeup comes a less than a month after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s permits to operate self-driving vehicles on public roads after an October 2 incident that saw a pedestrian – who had been initially hit by a human-driven car and landed in the path of a Cruise robotaxi – run over and dragged 20 feet by the AV. A video, which TechCrunch viewed a day after the incident, showed the robotaxi braking aggressively and coming to a stop over the woman. The DMV’s order of suspension stated that Cruise withheld about seven seconds of video footage, which showed the robotaxi then attempting to pull over and subsequently dragging the woman 20 feet. 

Vogt’s email sent to all employees — and viewed by TechCrunch — reads:

I have resigned from my position as CEO of Cruise.

The last 10 years have been amazing, and I’m grateful to everyone who helpeds Cruise along the way. The startup I launched in my garage has given over 250,000 driverless rides across several cities, with each ride inspiring people with a small taste of the future.

Cruise is still just getting started, and I believe it has a great future ahead. You all are brilliant, driven and resilient. I’m deeply saddened I won’t be working next to you anymore. However, I know you’re executing against a very strong, multi-year technology roadmap and exciting product vision, and I’m thrilled to see what Cruise has in store in its next chapter!

Cruisers, you’ve got this! Regardless of what originally brought you to work on AVs, remember why this work matters. The status quo on our roads sucks, but together we’ve proven there is something far better around the corner.

Vogt also posted a message Sunday evening on the social media site X that used similar language as the internal email. He ended the social media thread with this message “As for what’s next for me, I plan to spend time with my family and explore some new ideas. Thanks for the great ride!”

Barra’s internal email, which was sent about 15 minutes after Vogt sent his, thanked him for this “tremendous vision, passion and dedication over the past decade.” The emailed continued:

“The Cruise Board understands and respects his decision to resign as CEO, and we wish him well in his next chapter. We continue to believe strongly in Cruise’s mission and the potential of its transformative technology as we look to make transportation safer, cleaner and more accessible.”

Barra later emphasized that “the board and I also want you to know that we are intensely focused on setting Cruise up for long-term success. Public trust is essential to this. As we work to rebuild that trust, safety, transparency and accountability will be our north stars.”

Morale at Cruise has been low since the October 2 incident, with employees pointing the finger at poor management that didn’t prioritize safety at the company. Without commercial permits to operate in San Francisco and an internal decision to pause its driverless fleets in other states, the company laid off contract workers, further deepening the malaise. 

The initial layoffs included contract workers who had jobs cleaning, charging and maintaining the vehicles as well as answering customer support inquiries. Not all contingent workers, who are employed by a third party, were laid off. However, more layoffs are expected at the company that employs about 4,000 full-time employees.

Employee discontent was further inflamed last week when Cruise suspended its employee share-selling program for the fourth quarter. Sources who spoke to TechCrunch on the condition of anonymity said they could lose upwards of tens of thousands of dollars as a result of this decision.

Over the weekend, Cruise backtracked on that move. Vogt sent out an email Saturday saying that certain employees could sell a limited number of shares in a one-time opportunity. Vogt didn’t provide many details but said the company was developing a plan to conduct a new tender offer to provide restricted stock unit liquidity to mitigate potential tax implications. TechCrunch has viewed the email.

Vogt went on to offer his staff a blanket apology for “the situation Cruise is in today.”

Vogt and Cruise’s chief product officer Dan Kan founded the autonomous vehicle company in 2013. Initially, the pair had focused on kits that could retrofit a vehicle and turn it into a self-driving car. The startup soon pivoted to a different business model. GM took interest and acquired the company in March 2016 in a deal of cash and stock valued at more than $1 billion. 

Previously, Vogt had co-founded Justin.tv, a website that allowed anyone to broadcast video online, Twitch, a live-streaming platform, and Socialcam, a mobile social video app. Twitch was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million, and Socialcam by Autodesk for $60 million in 2012.

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