December 6, 2023
Cruz suspends employee stock program, raises corp bonuses

Image Credit: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Serial entrepreneur Kyle Vogt, who co-founded and led Cruise from a startup in a garage through acquisition and ownership by General Motors, has resigned, according to an email sent to employees Sunday evening seen by TechCrunch. Have given.

In a separate internal email, also seen by TechCrunch, GM President 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, Cruise board member and GM’s EVP of legal and policy, who was recently put in charge as chief administrative officer at Cruise, will remain in that role. GM board member John McNeil has been appointed vice chairman of Cruise’s board. McNeil, who recently joined the Cruise board and was previously chief operating officer at Lyft and president of Tesla, will now work with Cruise board chair Mary Barra. A statement from Cruz’s spokesperson confirmed Barra’s email.

As of Sunday, no one had been nominated for the post of CEO.

The executive change comes less than a month after the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s permit to operate a self-driving vehicle on public roads following an October 2 incident in which a pedestrian was struck was – which was initially hit by a human-driven car and landed in the path of the Cruise robotaxi – was crushed by the AV and dragged 20 feet. A video, seen by TechCrunch a day after the incident, showed the robotaxi braking aggressively and stopping over the woman. The DMV’s suspension order states that Cruz withheld approximately seven seconds of video footage, which showed the robotaxi attempting to move forward and subsequently dragging the woman 20 feet.

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

I have resigned from the post of CEO of Cruise.

The last 10 years have been amazing, and I’m grateful to everyone who has helped Cruise during this time. The startup I launched in my garage has delivered more than 250,000 driverless rides across multiple cities, each ride inspiring people with a little insight into the future.

Cruise has just started, and I believe it has a great future. You are all talented, motivated and resilient. I am deeply saddened that I will no longer work next to you. However, I know you’re executing under a very strong, multi-year technology roadmap and exciting product vision, and I’m thrilled to see what Cruise has in store for its next chapter!

Cruisers, you’ve got this! Whatever originally motivated you to work on AV, remember why this work matters. The status quo on our streets sucks, but together we’ve proven there is something better around the corner.

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

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

“The Cruise Board understands and respects his decision to resign as CEO, and we wish him well in his next chapter. We believe strongly in Cruise’s mission and the potential of its transformative technology as we seek 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 Cruz up for long-term success. That requires public trust. As we Let us work to rebuild trust, security, transparency and accountability will be our north stars.

Morale at Cruise has been low since the October 2 incident, with employees pointing fingers at poor management that did not prioritize safety at the company. Without a commercial permit to operate in San Francisco and an internal decision to halt its driverless fleet in other states, the company laid off contract workers, deepening the crisis.

The initial layoffs included contract employees whose job was to clean, charge and maintain vehicles as well as answer customer support inquiries. Not all contingent workers employed by a third party were laid off. However, more layoffs are expected at the company, which employs about 4,000 full-time employees.

Employee discontent flared up last week when Cruz suspended its employee stock-selling program for the fourth quarter. Sources who spoke to TechCrunch on condition of anonymity said they could lose more than thousands of dollars as a result of the decision.

Over the weekend, Cruz walked back his move. Vogt sent an email Saturday saying some employees may sell a limited number of shares in a one-time opportunity. Vogt did not provide further details, but said the company was developing plans to hold a new tender offering to provide restricted stock unit liquidity to mitigate potential tax impacts. TechCrunch has seen the email.

Vogt apologized to his staff for “the situation Cruise is in today.”

Vogt and Cruise’s chief product officer Dan Kahn founded the autonomous vehicle company in 2013. Initially, the pair 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 cash-and-stock deal valued at more than $1 billion.

Previously, Vogt 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 was acquired by Autodesk in 2012 for $60 million.


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