General Motors announced Thursday that Dan Ammann will give up duties as president to lead the Cruise autonomous vehicle initiative as the venture moves towards commercial deployment in 2019.
Ammann, who has served as the company’s number two executive after Chief Executive Mary Barra, will become CEO of the San Francisco-based Cruise, reporting to Barra. The appointment indicates the growing importance of the imitative to GM, which has come under fire from US President Donald Trump and other politicians over deep the job cuts announced Monday. 
Ammann will share strategic direction for the San Francisco-based venture with Cruise co-founder and former Chief Executive Kyle Vogt, who is shifting to chief technology officer, the automaker said in a news release.
‘These appointments further demonstrate our commitment to transforming mobility through the safe deployment of self-driving technology,’ said Barra. ‘As we move toward commercial deployment, adding Dan to the strong team led by Kyle is the next step.’
Ammann will be based in San Francisco and will spend 100 percent of his time on Cruise. His other duties in global management and finance will be split by Barra and Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara, a GM spokesman said.
GM has said Cruise will commercially deploy in 2019 in a ridesharing venture in a discrete geographic area. The company’s road-testing is primarily in San Francisco, a spokesman said.
GM, which acquired Cruise in 2016, said the Cruise venture now has a value of $14.6 billion following large investments by SoftBank and rival auto giant Honda. GM plans to spend $1 billion on Cruise in 2019.
GM on Monday announced plans to shutter seven plants worldwide, including five in North America that build sedans that have not been selling well in the United States. 
A motivation of the reorganization, which could hit 14,000 jobs or more, is to finance big-money investments in autonomous technology and other new ventures.
On Thursday, Trump again took to Twitter to criticize GM for the retrenchment, pointing to rival BMW, ‘which just announced a major new plant’ as evidence that the ‘USA is booming!’ 
Trump’s comment appeared to be a reference to remarks this week from BMW Chief Executive Harald Krueger, who said the company was considering a second plant in the United States but did not announce a firm plan.