Google has hired long-time auto executive John Krafcik to run the company’s self-driving car program.
Google has been developing its self-driving car technology for several years.
Now, the tech giant has the respected automotive executive to take them to the next level.
“John’s combination of technical expertise and auto industry experience will be particularly valuable as we collaborate with many different partners to achieve our goal of transforming mobility for millions of people,” A Google spokesperson said in a email statement to Business Insider.
The well-liked auto executive seems eager to take on the challenge of Google’s self-driving car.
“This is a great opportunity to help Google develop the enormous potential of self-driving cars,” Krafcik said in a statement released through Google.
“This technology can save thousands of lives, give millions of people greater mobility, and free us from a lot of the things we find frustrating about driving today. I can’t wait to get started.”
Meanwhile, Krafcik’s more recent employer, TrueCar Inc — a consumer automotive resource — is sad to see him go.
“John’s tireless efforts these past 18 months have been a tremendous benefit for TrueCar, and his influence will continue to be felt in the months ahead as programs he initiated come to fruition,” said Chris Claus, TrueCar’s Lead Independent Director in an email statement to Business Insider.
Krafcik will leave his post this week as president of TrueCar and will takeover Google’s autonomous car division at the end of the month.
Krafcik is departing TrueCar in a time when the Santa Monica-based startup is dealing with some challenges. The automotive resource company is currently facing a a trio of lawsuits from auto dealers.
Prior to joining TrueCar in 2014, Krafcik was President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, where he was credited with overseeing the company’s transformation from also-ran to industry heavyweight.
Krafcik oversaw the launch of a succession of well regarded cars from Hyundai, in addition to to the company’s move upmarket into luxury and performance vehicles.
The chief executive’s tenure at Hyundai ended when the South Korean-automaker declined to renew his contract.
“Hyundai was struggling with multiple challenges late in John’s tenure,” Kelley Blue Book senior editor Karl Brauer told Business Insider in an interview. “Unfortunately, the South Koreans don’t have much patience for backward movement and whoever is at the helm pays the price.”
Overall, it seems that Google’s may have found the right person to lead its automotive for the foreseeable future.
“Beyond his vast engineering and management experience John Krafcik is one of the most engaging and charismatic leaders in the industry,” Brauer told Business Insider.
“If Google is looking for a spokesperson to articulate its goals for personal transportation they couldn’t have picked a better ambassador.”
Google’s self-driving car project is currently under the leadership of Chris Urmson, who will stay on as the program’s technical lead.
“Everyone knows Google has been working on its own automotive line for the last several years,” Brauer said in a statement. “But hiring John Krafcik suggests the tech company is getting close to going public with its plans.”
However, this doesn’t mean Google is going to be a traditional automaker. What this does mean is that Google has an executive that’s well equipped to help the company manage its relationships with third party suppliers, manufacturers, and dealers, Brauer told Business Insider.
Krafcik started his career at General Motors in 1984 where he was one of the first engineers hired at GM’s NUMMI joint venture with Toyota.
In addition, Krafcik also spent 14 years in various engineering and executive positions at Ford.
Krafcik is a graduate of Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ford and Hyundai have thus far declined to comment on the Krafcik’s move to Google.
Edmunds, a TrueCar competitor, also declined to comment.
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