Infiniti exec named new Cadillac chief

2015-Cadillac-ATS-coupe-Infiniti exec named new Cadillac chief
By Nathan Bomey

General Motors has hired Johan de Nysschen away from Nissan’s Infiniti luxury line to lead Cadillac.

Most recently brand chief for Nissan’s Infiniti luxury, de Nysschen, 54, replaces Bob Ferguson, senior VP of Cadillac since 2012, will return to GM’s Washington office as a senior VP of global public policy.

The move marks the latest change in GM CEO Mary Barra’s management team — and is the latest in a churn of managers at Cadillac.

Former BMW marketer Uwe Ellinghaus became Cadillac’s new global chief marketing officer in January, and Kurt McNeil, GM’s VP of U.S. sales operations has been overseeing Caddy sales and service duties the resignation of Bill Peffer, U.S. VP for Cadillac sales and service, last month less than 10 months after he left a job as CEO of Nissan Australia to take the job at GM.

De Nysschen will report to GM President Dan Ammann, who oversees GM’s regional marketing strategies.

Significantly, his oversight will include not just sales, marketing and pricing but also “product portfolio planning” and “critical input for product engineering and design,” GM said in a statement.

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

The hire also comes as Cadillac’s sales growth has slowed in the U.S. Sales fell 2% for the first half of 2014 to 82,117, after rising 22% from 2012 to 2013 as it launched redesigned CTS, ATS and XTS sedans. Meanwhile, GM’s other premium brand, Buick, is up 12.5% in the U.S. this year to 113,472. The industry rose 4.3% for the first half.

Cadillac sales in China surged 72% for the first half of 2014 to 33,760 units, and it is planning long-wheelbase models there, which are popular in that market. Its goal is to sell 100,000 vehicles in the world’s largest car market in 2015. By comparison, GM’s Buick brand sold 450,421 vehicles in China in the first half, up 12.2%.

In the U.S., de Nysschen will chart a strategy for competing more effectively against BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. He served as president of Audi USA for eight years before joining Infiniti, giving him significant insight into the German luxury market. He spent nearly two decades at Audi.

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

One of his first opportunities for sales growth is the 2015 ATS coupe, which is arriving in showrooms this summer.

But the plug-in electric Cadillac ELR, a flashy, luxury version of the Chevrolet Volt, has been a sales flop, with sales of just 390 so far this year.

Contributing: Fred Meier, USA TODAY; Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press