GM Woos Infiniti Chief de Nysschen to Cadillac

Johan de Nysschen’s appointment at Cadillac comes at a critical time for the 112-year-old GM luxury unit, where U.S. sales are flagging and plans call for 10 new vehicles for the brand by the end of 2015.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

July 11, 2014

3 Min Read
Johan de Nysschen left at 2013 unveiling of Infiniti Q30 Concept in Frankfurt
Johan de Nysschen (left) at 2013 unveiling of Infiniti Q30 Concept in Frankfurt.

General Motors confirms it has hired former Infiniti and Audi executive Johan de Nysschen as president of the automaker’s Cadillac division, giving him sweeping responsibilities ranging from pricing strategy to input on design and engineering.

The 54-year-old de Nysschen also joins GM’s executive leadership team as an executive vice president, effective Aug. 1, and will report to GM President Dan Ammann.

“Johan brings to our company vast experience in the development and proper execution of luxury automotive brands,” Ammann says in a statement. “With over 20 years in this exact space, especially in the development of the Audi brand, his track record proves he is the perfect executive to lead Cadillac for the long term.”

During his tenure at Audi, de Nysschen put an intense focus on building the German automaker’s brand in the U.S. by focusing on product. His strategy of disciplined pricing and profit-making over pumping sales volumes boosted Audi’s average transaction prices, and an approachable demeanor won over dealers. Also while at Audi, he helped put a greater emphasis on used-vehicle sales and maintaining residuals.

Between 2005 and 2012 with de Nysschen at the helm, Audi’s U.S. sales nearly doubled, from 77,677 to 132,105, according to WardsAuto data. Its share of the luxury market leaped to 7.5% from 3.9%.

De Nysschen’s appointment at Cadillac comes at a critical time for the 112-year-old GM luxury unit. After suffering through a dearth of product following GM’s 2009 bankruptcy, the brand has launched five new products in the U.S. since 2012 and will add a sixth with the ATS Coupe later this summer. Plans call for a total of 10 new vehicles for the brand by the end of 2015.

Cadillac also has initiated a major global expansion by establishing new footholds in Europe and China. In China, Cadillac has begun manufacturing vehicles and eyes tripling sales there to 150,000 units annually by 2016.

De Nysschen expresses an eagerness to start at GM.

“I have for some time now been impressed by how the new General Motors has been transformed into a formidable force in the industry,” he says in the announcement. “The combination of strong corporate leadership and exceptional engineering resources presents the perfect combination to restore Cadillac to its place among global premium brands.

“The recognition of the brand is immense, and the progress on the fundamental product front is widely acclaimed,” he says.

Global Cadillac sales jumped 30% last year, but have sputtered in the U.S. Volume finished 2013 up 22.1% to 180,571 units from 147,848 in 2012. This year, however, Cadillac’s U.S. sales are down 1.0% to 82,068 against an industry that’s ahead 4.0% and a luxury market up 7.0%. The brand’s share of the luxury segment at the end of June stood at 8.4% compared with 9.1% year-ago.

The reversal of fortune led to the firing earlier this month of U.S. sales chief Bill Peffer, the third executive with that responsibility sent packing in two years.

GM assigns de Nysschen broad global responsibilities, including sales, pricing and network development, strategic brand development and marketing and product portfolio planning, including input on product design and engineering.

De Nysschen spent two years as head of Infiniti’s global operations, based in Hong Kong. Prior to his tenure at Audi of America, de Nysschen was president of Audi Japan for five years. His career took hold at Audi in his native South Africa in 1993 after holding government and OEM jobs in the country.

De Nysschen replaces Bob Ferguson, who led global Cadillac for two years and earlier this week was assigned back to his first position at GM as head of public policy in Washington.

Ferguson, 54, was handling Cadillac and public policy duties as GM’s recall crisis heightened. He now will focus entirely on GM’s federal, state and international government relations and public policy activities in the U.S. and around the globe.

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