The revolving door at the top of Cadillac continues today with the announcement that Johan de Nysschen, 54, is taking over the GM luxury brand that has seen three different people running it in less than two years, most recently Bill Peffer who suddenly resigned last month.
Mr. de Nysschen comes to what was a flagship for GM but is now just a regional brand mostly in the US and China after a two-year stint at an, arguably, weaker Infiniti.
Prior to that, de Nysschen was chief executive of Audi USA for eight years and president of Audi Japan for five. He began his career with Audi in South Africa in 1993 after a variety of automotive positions with the Ministry of Transportation, BMW in South Africa and an automotive supplier. All told, he was with Audi for 19 years
He will now head Cadillac as GM attempts to give it global credibility. As senior vice president of Nissan Motor Company in charge of the Infiniti division starting July 2012, De Nysschen was located at Infiniti’s then new global headquarters in Hong Kong, which officially opened in May of that year. Infiniti claimed back then it would triple global sales between 2012-2016, while meeting the corporate goal of 8% return on sales.
During 2013, Audi sold 1,575,480 vehicles (2012 at 1,455,123), a new record, and a volume target of 1.5 million vehicles – originally set for 2015 – two years earlier than planned. Helping the success were premium compact vehicles in the new A3 family, as well as the Q3 and Q5 SUV crossover models.
Now look at Infiniti, a global footnote in the luxury sales race. During 2013, it sold about 180,000 vehicles. So having a global office is one thing, but the lack of a dedicated product development group has hampered Nissan, and now the Renault–Nissan Alliance owned luxury brand since its beginnings when a “rocks and trees” marketing approach that mimicked Japanese culture failed to attract buyers of the performance oriented Q45.
At the same time, Toyota through its Lexus luxury brand with the LS400 sedan, took on Mercedes-Benz S-class and 7-Series BMW models with a smooth, silent sedan that was priced $10,000 to 20,000 under the lower quality, harsher riding German offerings. Lexus clearly won , particularly in the all-important U.S. luxury market.
Cadillac had a decent 2013 sales year at 250,830 vehicles and looks ideally poised to grow in China, the world’s largest auto market.
“The recognition of the brand is immense, and the progress on the fundamental product front is widely acclaimed,” de Nysschen said in a GM news release.
Mr. de Nysschen holds a bachelor’s degree from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and an MBA from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.