May 7, 2019 11:30 AM, EDT

GM Self-Driving Unit’s Valuation Swells to $19 Billion

GMAn electric, self-driving General Motors Cruise. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

General Motors Co.’s self-driving unit drew $1.15 billion in fresh investment, with T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. joining existing backers, including Honda Motor Co. and SoftBank Vision Fund.

In what is GM Cruise’s third major investment in the last year, the unit now is valued at $19 billion, according to a statement. Cruise raised $2.25 billion from the SoftBank Vision Fund and $2.75 billion from Honda last year.

Cruise continues to tap outside investors as it races the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo to develop self-driving vehicles. GM wants to start an autonomous ride-hailing service at the end of this year and needs cash to bring along the technology and build out an infrastructure for that kind of business. The automaker is spending about $1 billion a year on Cruise.


A GM Chevy Bolt is outfitted with cameras and sensors that allow it to be self-driving. (Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News)

GM owned about 85% of Cruise before the latest investment and still has a large majority of the shares. At some point, the carmaker may elect to spin off Cruise through an initial public offering or sale. The unit’s CEO, former GM President Dan Ammann, is incentivized to arrange such a deal as part of his compensation package.

“Developing and deploying self-driving vehicles at massive scale is the engineering challenge of our generation,” Ammann said in a statement. “Having deep resources to draw on as we pursue our mission is a critical competitive advantage.”

Cruise lost $728 million last year, and GM expects the tab to be about $1 billion this year, the company said in January.

GM shares climbed as much as 2.1% to $38.89 at the open of regular trading May 7 as the benchmark S&P 500 Index declined.

T. Rowe Price Group is a Baltimore-based investment firm known for its actively managed mutual funds. It had $1.08 trillion in assets under management as of March 31. A spokesman declined to comment beyond GM’s statement.