Mar 23, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Former top GM executive joins Exxon to lead climate unit

Dan Ammann, chief executive officer at Cruise Automation Inc., speaks during a reveal event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.

Dan Ammann at event in San Francisco on Jan. 21, 2020. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Exxon has tapped a former top GM executive to lead the climate unit that has recently gained stature within the oil giant.

Driving the news: Dan Ammann, who led GM's autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise until he was reportedly ousted in late 2021, will head Exxon's Low Carbon Solutions division. He was GM's president from 2014 to 2018.

Why it matters: Exxon recently made the division, which launched in early 2021, one of three formal business lines during a wider restructuring. It's focused on carbon capture, hydrogen and biofuels.

  • "We’ll be significantly moving the needle toward net zero in the most hard-to-decarbonize industries, in an economically viable way, and with urgency," Ammann said on LinkedIn.

The intrigue: It's a rare foray outside the company to fill a top executive position, and comes as Exxon faces investor and activist pressure to do more on climate.

  • Exxon has historically looked within (Ammann's succeeding the retiring Joe Blommaert, who joined Exxon in the 1980s). But that's been changing.
  • This year Jennifer Driscoll left Caterpillar to become Exxon's VP of investor relations. Last week Exxon announced Best Buy's Matt Furman as the new VP of public and government affairs.

What they're saying: "This is a major shift in approach for Exxon, and suggests that perhaps the reconstituted board is pushing for more outside voices in senior management," Andrew Logan, of green investor advocacy group Ceres, said via email.

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