Infiniti's Global Chief Becomes Cadillac's Global Chief

Johan de Nysschen came to Infiniti from Audi two years ago to help make the Nissan Motors division a global luxury brand, and truly distinct from Nissan in all ways. He was part of Infiniti’s move to Hong Kong and drove big changes to Infiniti’s alphanumeric vehicle naming system.

Now de Nysschen is moving in with Cadillac as its new president with an aim to make the GM division a truly global luxury brand. De Nysschen, who ran Audi U.S.A. for eight years and Audi Japan for five, starts in September. 

Analysts say he’s leaving Infiniti too early, and arriving at GM not a moment too soon. Jesse Toprak, chief auto analyst at Cars.com tells Marketing Daily that it's something of a ‘strategy interruptus’ for Infiniti now. "Their program is nowhere near complete. They have begun doing things there toward making Infiniti a separate entity, versus Infiniti as souped-up Nissans, but two years is not nearly long enough to accomplish much."

Current global Caddie chief Robert Ferguson will move back to Washington, D.C., where he is probably more comfortable — he was AT&T’s lobbyist there for many years. He will be GM’s SVP of global public policy. While Cadillac products like ATS and CTS have gotten strong reviews, Cadillac saw a 4.5% drop in June retail sales versus the month last year. Year to date sales of all GM’s other divisions have been up, but Cadillac U.S. sales are slightly down. 

Jim Sanfilippo, auto executive and consultant, tells Marketing Daily that whatever they did to get de Nysschen to jump ship at Infiniti, GM has just hit a home run for Cadillac. "Kudos to [GM CEO] Mary Barra for replacing a lobbyist with a proven leader," he says. "If I were a Cadillac dealer I'd be celebrating as if I'd just won the World Cup. I'd be planning to be 1,000% behind [de Nysshen], a proven leader, a proven turnaround guy who knows how to build a brand."

GM says de Nysschen will handle Cadillac global sales, pricing and network development, strategic brand development and marketing and product portfolio planning. He also has input for product engineering and design. He will report to GM President Dan Ammann.

In his official statement on the move, the incoming Cadillac executive said, “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 cites corporate leadership and "exceptional engineering resources," global brand recognition, and product progress as forces to restore Cadillac as a worldwide premium brand.

There is some good news for Cadillac, thanks to China: global sales improved 30% last year. Both Cadillac and Infiniti share global ambitions. Infiniti aims to grab about a tenth of the global luxury market within six years, and is about to go hell for leather in China, the biggest auto market, and where it's about to start making cars. And like Infiniti, Cadillac is also ramping up its presence in China, where it plans on growing sales by 40% this year. Company has already seen sales in China grow 71.7% so far this year.

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