GM Software EVP Left For Personal Reasons, Not Problems With GM

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Sadly, I fell for some Twitter bait recently. When Michael Abbott, GM’s executive VP in charge of the company’s software effort, left the company, many assumed that this was caused by GM’s problems with software. After all, the Chevrolet Blazer EV had some serious problems that were bad enough that GM had to stop sales until it figures out how to get them solved. This led to speculation that Abbott, a former Apple executive, had failed at GM, or that GM simply was too far behind on software efforts to have any prayer of catching up.

But, we all felt like major jerks when we figured out why Abbott had really left the company.

“it’s with great disappointment to share that i’m stepping down from my role at GM. since late last year, i’ve been facing some serious health issues involving my heart that have not improved. as a father and husband, i need to prioritize my recovery and be with my family with the hope that my health will improve over time.” (note that the lack of capitalization is intentional, as he calls his LinkedIn blog “uncapitalized”)

He goes on to explain that he’s not worried about GM’s future. After all, he’s an executive, and not the guy in there writing the code for GM’s products. This concept of not micromanaging everyone and letting people do their job may be foreign to people like Elon Musk, but outside of companies like Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter/X, most executives would never camp out on the roof of the building. Normal executives keep an eye on progress and make sure that the team has what they need to do the job.

He points out in the blog post that some of the people are long-time GM people while others have been hired away from Apple, Google, Meta, Amazon, and other tech companies. So, there’s a mix of automotive talent and software talent, all the way up to the VP level below the position he just left. So, there’s probably good cause to believe that his exit isn’t going to sink the team.

He also had kind things to say about Mary Barra, GM’s CEO. He thinks that rather than being a failed leader of a “legacy auto” company, she’s underestimated by most people. So, he thinks the company will be OK under her, too. He thinks her background, including in computer science, is good, and that she’s got a good vision for the future of the company building electric, software-defined vehicles (including autonomous vehicles). But, there’s a big challenge ahead, because GM is a big company that needs to make a lot of changes.

While it’s pretty clear that he didn’t leave GM due to problems working with the company or with Barra in particular, that doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t have a serious turnaround to make in software. The problems the Blazer had were very much real. Even building a reliable vehicle with reliable software would still leave them behind Tesla by a big margin. So, the team will need to not only catch up, but they’re starting from below ground level.

Abbott or not, that’s going to mean a lot of work!

Featured image by GM.

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