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GM realigns execs in autonomous push

Ammann: Can focus more on Cruise

DETROIT — General Motors has realigned the responsibilities of two top executives in a move that underscores the importance and immediacy of its work on autonomous vehicles. The change also gives product chief Mark Reuss more direct control over the ongoing revival efforts at Cadillac two months after GM ousted the luxury brand's president for not progressing quickly enough.

GM President Dan Ammann, in relinquishing oversight of Cadillac and its global portfolio planning to Reuss, will have more opportunity to concentrate on the automaker's development and deployment of autonomous technology.

GM views being first to market as a significant competitive advantage for autonomous ride-hailing, which it plans to begin rolling out to the public in 2019, as it pursues a zero-emission, zero-accident and zero-congestion future.

"There's a very, very big business opportunity here, very significant," GM's outgoing CFO, Chuck Stevens, said this year. "In order to get to that business opportunity, the first thing we need to do is to safely deploy the technology at scale. Everything we're doing right now is focused on that."

Reuss: Control over Cadillac’s revival

Ammann, 46, who already was overseeing the autonomous operations, remains president, while Reuss, previously executive vice president of global product development, has the title of executive vice president and president of GM's global product group and Cadillac. But Cadillac President Steve Carlisle, who replaced Johan de Nysschen in April, remains. Carlisle and Sam Basile, who leads global portfolio planning for GM, now report to Reuss, 54.

The shift follows several major announcements in recent months about GM's autonomous work, including a $2.25 billion investment by the SoftBank Vision Fund of Japan. SoftBank will take a 19.6 percent stake in GM's self-driving vehicle operation, valuing GM Cruise at about $11.5 billion. GM bought Cruise Automation in 2016 for a reported $1 billion.

Ammann, a former Wall Street banker who joined GM as its treasurer in 2010, remains based in Detroit but will spend more time in San Francisco, where Cruise is based. He retains responsibility for GM's other brands, global regions and GM Financial.

The change in responsibilities puts Ammann on track to potentially lead Cruise if GM spins off that operation. Bloomberg News reported last week that GM was talking with banks and internally about its eventual options for Cruise, including a public offering, spinoff or separate stock listing.

"This move gives Dan the time to focus on Cruise to see if a spinoff makes sense," Morningstar analyst David Whiston wrote in an email. "Reuss is a passionate GM car guy and can certainly handle Cadillac, so it makes sense to free up Ammann to focus on mobility services."

At first, the fleet-based services are expected to complement GM's core business. But CEO Mary Barra and other executives have said they see those operations at some point possibly eclipsing its century-old business of building and selling vehicles.

Ammann has said GM expects to bring the cost of operating autonomous ride-hailing vehicles to less than $1 per mile by 2025 — a key to achieving profitability. The current cost of ride-hailing in a city such as San Francisco is more than $3 a mile, according to GM, including paying the driver.

You can reach Michael Wayland at mwayland@crain.com -- Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeWayland

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