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GM self-driving unit Cruise names new CEO as it seeks turnaround

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Adds Barra quote, settlement details, additional job cuts, prior funding announcement

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) -General Motors GM.N robotaxi unit Cruise said on Tuesday it has named a former xBox founding engineer as the new CEO of U.S. automaker's troubled self-driving vehicle company.

Marc Whitten will take over as chief executive on July 16, Cruise announced. Cruise has had two co-presidents running the company since Kyle Vogt resigned as CEO last year amid the fallout after an accident involving one of its driverless vehicles in California. Both of those co-presidents will remain at Cruise.

Whitten was a founding engineer at Xbox and Xbox Live and was general manager and vice president at Amazon.com across a number of entertainment devices and services. He held other positions at Sonos and Create at Unity.

GM separately also said Craig Glidden will remain co-president and chief administrative officer at Cruise but will step down from his role as GM's chief legal and public policy officer.

GM said Grant Dixton, who previously served as the chief legal officer of Activision Blizzard and as general counsel at Boeing, will become GM's chief legal and public policy officer on July 15. Glidden will also serve as executive vice president and strategic advisor at GM. 

Cruise has lost more than $8 billion since 2016 and has faced a series of challenges since last October, when California revoked its permit to operate driverless vehicles after an accident in which one of its robotaxis struck a pedestrian and dragged her 20 feet (6 meters).

The Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating Cruise.

GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said this month the automaker put another $850 million into Cruise, saying "this buys us time to continue to pursue our strategic review" after announcing Cruise would sharply cut spending this year. GM CEO Mary Barra said Whitten has "sparked innovation and driven growth in complex, fast-paced environments throughout his career."

Since the accident, Cruise has fired nine executives. Vogt and company co-founder Dan Kan both resigned, and Cruise cut a quarter of its staff. Last week, Cruise made a small number of new job cuts, a person briefed on the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The California Public Utilities Commission last week said Cruise would pay the maximum fine of $112,500, which is $7,500 for each of the 15 days during which it withheld information about the incident.

Cruise reached a settlement with the woman who was struck worth between $8 million and $12 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Since April, Cruise has resumed supervised autonomous driving in Phoenix, Houston and Dallas, in addition to its ongoing testing in Dubai.

Cruise also on Tuesday said it hired Rivian's global communications head Nick Mulholland as its chief communications and marketing officer.

Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Will Dunham


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