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Cadillac taps Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen as new global president

Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen named global president of Cadillac
Johan de Nysschen, credited with helping turn Audi into a powerhouse, to become Cadillac global president

Cadillac employees woke up Friday morning with a new boss.

GM’s luxury division announced that Johan de Nysschen would take over as president on Aug. 1. The 54-year-old South African will leave his post at Nissan, where he served as head of its Infiniti brand for two years.

Previously he was an executive at Audi for 19 years and is credited with helping turn that brand into the powerhouse that it is today.

“Johan brings to our company vast experience in the development and proper execution of luxury automotive brands,” GM President Dan Ammann said 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.”

De Nysschen joins an automaker that is already well on its way to a successful turnaround. Cadillac sales were up nearly 22% in 2013 (though they’ve been flat so far this year), and says about 60% of buyers are new to the brand.

Much of Cadillac's success has come from bold and fresh designs, and from building cars that are actually competitive with their German counterparts. These include the ATS compact sedan and the midsize CTS.

A new ATS coupe and Escalade full-size SUV went on sale this year, and high-performance versions of the ATS and CTS sedans will probably debut in the next eight months. Cadillac is also expected to announce an all-new full-size sedan in the future, one that would serve as a high-end halo for the rest of the lineup.

De Nysschen said the brand’s momentum was one of the things that appealed to him.

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

The longtime auto executive comes to the American brand from Infiniti, another luxury nameplate looking for a reinvention. Such a process can often happen at a glacial pace. But in De Nysschen’s two short years he was able to get Infiniti at least pointed in the right direction.

Just this week Infiniti announced that its global sales for the first six months of 2014 were up 30%. While those 101,000 vehicles were a record for Infiniti, they still lag far behind the German mainstays that dominate.

One of which is Audi, the company De Nysschen worked for for 19 years. He started there as an executive in South Africa in 1993 before heading the Japanese division for five years, and finally coming to the U.S. as head of Audi USA for eight years.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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