As a sign of the growing importance of its Cruise self-driving business, General Motors President Dan Ammann is taking over as CEO of the San Francisco-based startup.

GM announced Thursday that Ammann will take over from current Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt on January 1, 2019.

Vogt founded Cruise (originally Cruise Automation) together with Daniel Kan in 2013 and has led the company ever since, helping it to grow from 40 staff to more than 1,000 today. He will remain as president and chief technology officer following the transition.

Ammann has been closely involved with Cruise's development from early on and orchestrated GM's acquisition of the company in 2016 for an undisclosed sum. With recent investments by SoftBank and Honda, Cruise’s valuation has rapidly grown to $14.6 billion.

Kyle Vogt (left) and Dan Ammann

Kyle Vogt (left) and Dan Ammann

“These appointments further demonstrate our commitment to transforming mobility through the safe deployment of self-driving technology and move us closer to our vision for a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “As we move toward commercial deployment, adding Dan to the strong team led by Kyle is the next step.”

Cruise is developing its own proprietary self-driving system that is currently being tested in prototypes based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Unlike rival firms in the self-driving space, Cruise plans to deploy self-driving cars that are completely devoid of steering wheels and pedals. The company aims to have a commercial ride-hailing service with self-driving cars in operation in 2019.

Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo self-driving business is expected to be the first with a commercial service. The company is expected to launch the service in Phoenix, Arizona in December.

GM's announcement of Ammann's new role at Cruise comes the same week that the company announced plans to cut multiple models and idle seven plants, including three in North America. The move is expected to save GM approximately $6 billion by 2020, allowing the company to accelerate its investments in electric and self-driving cars.