We woke up to the news of a fairly major shakeup in the luxury car world this morning as Johan De Nysschen, the CEO of Infiniti and chief architect of its attempted turnaround, has announced he is leaving the company. And the word on the street is he's talking about joining Cadillac. (Update: Sources say it's official.)
Automotive News has the full scoop, saying De Nysschen submitted his resignation earlier this week. He has already found another employer, Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer said, and who that employer is could be announced as soon as this afternoon.
They report De Nysschen has been in talks with Cadillac, whose recent chief (and former top General Motors lobbyist) Bob Ferguson has been sent to D.C. to steer the recall response. Could GM tap De Nysschen to head Cadillac? Looks like it.
Palmer said the South African-born De Nysschen, the former head of Audi in the U.S., had a strong desire to return to America, where his family lives. While at Audi, he nearly doubled their U.S. marketshare in seven years.
De Nysschen was only at Infiniti for two years, but it's hard to understate his importance there. He had aggressive plans to establish Infiniti as a luxury brand that stood on its own globally, rather than just being a collection of re-badged JDM luxury Nissans as they had always been.
He was the one behind their their product expansion plans, their switch to the controversial Q-based model naming structure, and their ambitious goals of selling 500,000 cars within the next few years — a goal he later dialed back.
De Nysschen hard charging, incredibly smart, and refreshingly honest for a CEO, all of which made him one of the best in this business, in my eyes.
What happens to Infiniti without him? "We'll be fine," Matthew Davis, Infiniti's global product spokesman, said on Facebook this morning. "Johan de Nysschen, being professional, made sure of that before choosing to change jobs. Much awaits and it is good." One can assume they will continue adding new models and focusing on the Chinese market like they've been doing.
So now the word is De Nysschen might go to Cadillac, presumably to be a "turnaround artist" there. That's incredibly interesting. While it's not confirmed, it's move that makes a lot of sense.
Cadillac currently enjoys the strongest product lineup they've probably ever had, at least since the 1960s. The ATS, new CTS and other cars are outstanding. But they have something of a sales problem. Their numbers still lag behind their German rivals. De Nysschen could be the guy to help change that.
At the same time, I wonder if De Nysschen's strong, no-bullshit leadership style will chafe under the famously bureaucratic structure at GM. He may be able to continue to turn Cadillac around if they shut up and do what he says.
That's if he even goes there, of course. I guess we'll find out soon.
Update: CNBC's Phil LeBeau reports it's official: De Nysschen to Cadillac.