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GM's Cruise names former Amazon, Microsoft Xbox executive as new CEO

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • General Motors' Cruise autonomous vehicle unit on Tuesday announced Marc Whitten, a former Amazon and Microsoft executive, as its new CEO.
  • His appointment comes at a crucial time for Cruise, as the GM subsidiary attempts to relaunch its autonomous vehicles on public roadways after the company ceased operations weeks following an Oct. 2 accident.
  • As of this month, Cruise has resumed supervised driving in Phoenix, Houston and Dallas, in addition to its ongoing testing in Dubai.

DETROIT – General Motors' Cruise autonomous vehicle unit on Tuesday announced former Amazon and Microsoft executive Marc Whitten as its new CEO.

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Whitten was a founding engineer at Microsoft's Xbox before leaving the company after more than 17 years to become chief product officer of audio company Sonos in 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile. He then worked at Amazon as vice president of entertainment devices and services before his most recent role as chief product and technology officer for software development company Unity's Create.

His appointment comes at a crucial time for Cruise, which is testing and relaunching its autonomous vehicles on public roadways. It ceased operations weeks after an Oct. 2 accident in which a pedestrian in San Francisco was dragged 20 feet by a Cruise robotaxi.

Following the incident, several key leaders, including Cruise CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt, departed the company.

"Marc is a proven technology and business leader with extensive experience in scaling products and building ecosystems around them," GM CEO and Chair Mary Barra, who also leads the Cruise board of directors, said in a release. "He has sparked innovation and driven growth in complex, fast-paced environments throughout his career, and I believe that will prove crucial to Cruise's vision of creating technology that provides real, tangible benefits to society."

A third-party probe into the October incident ordered by GM and Cruise found that culture issues, ineptitude and poor leadership fueled regulatory oversights that led to the accident. The probe also investigated allegations of a cover-up by Cruise leadership, but investigators did not find evidence to support those claims.

During that time, San Francisco-based Cruise was attempting to expand its operations into a revenue-generating business for GM, which has been a majority owner of the company since acquiring it in 2016. Other investors now include Honda Motor, Microsoft, T. Rowe Price, and Walmart.

As of this month, Cruise has resumed supervised driving in Phoenix, Houston and Dallas, in addition to its ongoing testing in Dubai. It has not relaunched in San Francisco, where it remains under investigation related to the accident.

Cruise was a crucial part of GM's plan to double revenue to $280 billion by the end of this decade.

GM announced Whitten's appointment in conjunction with other executive changes. The automaker said Nick Mulholland, who led communications for Rivian, would become Cruise's chief marketing and communications officer.

Craig Glidden, who has served as GM's legal and chief policy officer, also will join Cruise as president and chief administrative officer, responsible for legal, government affairs, finance, communications, and human resources, the automaker said in a separate release Tuesday.

Glidden will be replaced by Grant Dixton, who has held senior leadership roles at Activision Blizzard and Boeing.

 "GM is an iconic company I have always admired," Dixton said in a statement. "I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Mary, her leadership team, and the strong legal and policy teams in place at GM to help the company achieve its bold vision as it continues to provide vehicles that customers around the world love." 

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