GM’s Former President Calls for the End of Car Ownership

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(Bloomberg) -- Talk about biting the hand that feeds.

Dan Ammann, the chief executive officer of a self-driving car startup majority owned by General Motors Co., on Wednesday called solo drivers of gasoline-powered cars “the fundamental problem” behind pollution, congestion and vehicle crashes. His complaint is ironic since as recently as January, Ammann was president of GM, which derives much of its profits from gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks, few of which are owned by commuters who regularly carpool.

GM’s Former President Calls for the End of Car Ownership

“Imagine if someone invented a new transportation system and said, ‘I’ve designed a new way of getting around: it’s powered by fossil fuels that will pollute our air. It will congest our cities to the point of inciting rage in its users. Its human operators will be fallible, killing 40,000 Americans — and more than a million people around the world — every year,’” Ammann wrote in a blog post. “You’d say, ‘You’re crazy.’”

As head of Cruise LLC, Ammann, 47, is looking to promote the idea that electric, self-driving vehicles purpose built for ride-sharing are the best cure for modern-day urban transportation woes. His old boss, GM CEO Mary Barra, has echoed those comments, but also stressed the need to make money on the company’s current lineup to pay for that transformation to a more sustainable future.

GM funds Cruise with $1 billion a year, which it can afford to do thanks to the fat profit margins earned from sales of vehicles like the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, a revamped and much-larger version of which the company showed off on Tuesday. Notably, the 2021 model lacks an optional electric powertrain or self-driving technology, though GM does have electric SUVs in the works.

Meanwhile, Cruise will miss its original goal to launch a self-driven ride-sharing service by the end of this year, something the venture now plans to introduce at an unspecified date.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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