After nearly four years leading General Motors’ luxury brand, Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen is leaving the company.
He’s been replaced by Steve Carlisle, who most recently was president and managing director of GM Canada. Replacing Carlisle is Travis Hester, who acted as the vice president, Global Product Programs. The transition will begin immediately according to GM’s press release.
In that release, GM provides some insight into why the company made the change, saying:
Looking forward, the world is changing rapidly, and, beginning with the launch of the new XT4, it is paramount that we capitalize immediately on the opportunities that arise from this rate of change. This move will further accelerate our efforts in that regard.
De Nysschen came to GM from Infiniti, where he was president for just two years, having bristled at Nissan’s conservative, risk-averse structure. Prior to that de Nysschen led the American branch Audi between 2004 and 2012, and oversaw a modern renaissance for that brand in terms of sales.
He had a crucial job: to take a division of GM that spent decades throwing away its brand equity on inferior cars and rebuild it into a global powerhouse that could compete with Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and more.
But de Nysschen’s tenure at Cadillac was marked with much bluster and not as much success as his overlords at GM likely wanted—an Audi-like rebirth of the beleaguered brand never quite happened. He famously moved Cadillac’s headquarters to New York City, which drew the ire of many people in Detroit and in Michigan who felt like they lost claim to what was once the crown jewel of American luxury.
And there was a lot of talk of transforming Cadillac’s “brand” that never translated to sales. At the same time, under his leadership Cadillac took forward-thinking steps things like car-sharing services and semi-autonomous driving with Super Cruise.
De Nysschen’s Cadillac focused hard on sedans, namely the ATS and CTS, which boasted excellent performance but lagged behind European and Asian competitors in terms of features and interior quality. He also oversaw the brand’s awkward transition to an alphanumeric naming structure, much like he did at Infiniti, and in a way that was equally derided.
Perhaps most frustratingly, Cadillac missed the boat on SUVs and crossovers. For a long time the aged SRX was the brand’s top seller. Lately it’s been playing catch up with cars like the XT5 and XT4, but for the bosses at GM, it may have been too little, too late.
Also worth noting in this move: de Nysschen was a GM outsider, and his replacement Carlisle is decidedly not. That may give some indication that the home office will be seeking to take more control over Cadillac’s fate from now on.