By on July 11, 2014

Johan-de-Nysschen-.-Picture-courtesy-Bertel-Schmitt3-450x300

Johan de Nysschen, the executive largely credited with Audi’s rise to Tier 1 luxury brand status, has left his post at Infiniti after just two years on the job. He will assume the top job at Cadillac, after former President Bob Ferguson was moved to a new post as GM’s head of public policy.

de Nysschen, who took the helm as Infiniti moved its headquarters to Hong Kong and re-organized its nomenclature (into the confusing “Q” and “QX” lines), was expected to lead a long, progressive turnaround for the brand, much as he did with the once-struggling Audi.

But his departure for Cadillac bodes poorly for a luxury brand that has failed to establish itself in the same way that Lexus has in North America, let alone globally. Witness the confusion around the Infiniti Q50, which was branded as a Nissan Skyline in Japan, despite a supposed push for Infiniti’s entry into the Japanese market.

While de Nysschen cited family concerns as a major motivation (he and his family have strong ties to the United States, having lived there for many years), an Automotive News story suggests that CEO Carlos Ghosn’s extremely ambitious targets may have played a part in de Nysschen’s departure.

Despite that, he will have a challenge on his hands at Cadillac. GM is also aiming for a major push into Europe – and you can bet that de Nysschen’s tenure will be focused on that goal.

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57 Comments on “Official: Johan de Nysschen Departs Infiniti For Cadillac...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Wow…that didn’t take long.
    Too bad his legacy will be non-sensical model name changes then departing the company.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      Depends. I can’t imagine Ellinghaus is excited to deal with someone who is familiar with ze vay ze Germans do business.

      And given how hands on Johan has been in the past with Brand Management, I am VERY excited to see how he decides to handle Uwe.

      Disclaimer – I do not like Ellinghaus, and if you look at his track record at BMW, you have to wonder how he EVER ended up with another automaker.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Don’t get comfortable Johan.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    So, marketing is the reason Audi is a success?

    GM went bankrupt as a result of that mantra. See Ron Zarrella.

    Audi had the best-selling luxury sedan in the US before CBS faked its investigation. I’d say things reverted to the way they should have been.

    Product is key. See the Cadillac that zigs.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Image and marketing is a big part of Audi’s success. Otherwise the A3, which is simply the next gen Jetta, wouldn’t sell so well.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        The A3 is based on the best platform in its segment, only with a much nicer interior and a more prestigious exterior. In other words, it’s a good looking car that drives well and doesn’t cost too much.
        I’m sure that image and marketing help, but I’m also sure that GM would kill for a platform that good.

        Of course, GM would kill to save a nickel a car, so that’s not a great example.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        carguy –

        I would argue that Audi’s success is based on a very methodical, measured investment. Audi has never had particularly strong marketing here in the US, but they have been good at brand imaging and product placement in recent years which has helped.

        Audi’s success is due more on having good product in recent years, especially since the current current generation A4/A5/Q5 went on sale in 2008. They’ve made big strides in dealership improvements, reliability and quality. They’ve also benefitted a bit from people who have tired of their BMWs and Mercs and who are looking for something new.

        The A3 and Jetta comparison is not entirely fair. The new A3’s architecture is outstanding and while we know that the next gen Jetta will indeed share the same MQB components, they will no doubt be very different vehicles.

        Go drive the new MK7 GTI and then drive an A3. While both are MQB vehicles they have radically different character. Both excellent in their own way, but both will cater to completely different buyers and demographics.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Audi really didn’t start to find its way in the US market until the R8 and the current A6, A7 and A8, along with its CUV lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        don’t believe it.
        Audi’s fortunes rose with the early A4’s and were cemented with the Q5 and the geriatric but also relatively cheap Q7. the TT set the design darling image.
        Everything else Audi makes is an also-ran in the industry. the A6 is a 3rd pick behind the 5 series and E-Class, the A8 is not the same as an S-Class.

        The new A3 seems to be doing well, but I have my doubts about a restyled Jetta in the long term. (I still think they’replaying with the launch numbers, but that’s jsut me)

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          Agree that the ’96 A4 was the real rebound for Audi.

          While the A3 may be in a race for the bottom with the CLA, it will be fun to watch the execs squirm when the numbers start to sink.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          That certainly isn’t what others are saying about the A6.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          The ’96 A4 started Audi’s resurrection from irrelevance in the US market but it took another 10 years for them to hit their stride.

          Fracture – while the A6 may be 3rd behind sales of the 5 series and E class it has also been racking up the sales and accolades.

          The A8, while good, ain’t the new S-Class, I agree.

          First month I would agree they could and did fudge the numbers a bit, but we’ve got three solid months in on the A3 and it’s selling very nicely. Just spoke with the dealer principal at the largest Ohio Audi shop and he’s got a waiting list fifteen deep on A3s.

          Calling Audi’s product lineup full of “also rans” is a bit disingenuous. They are continually improving the product and it shows in the numbers. They’ve got a big ways to go to catch BMW in the US market, but they’re making some solid inroads.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I betcha this ends up being a round peg in a square hole!

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire – both Infiniti and Cadillac are seemingly well-equipped luxury marquees always poised to elbow their way into a German and Lexus dominated segment, only to trip themselves up with lower tier product, poor design decisions, or marketing debacles. As an Infiniti fan since the G35 coupe spy shots started circulating, it’s just sad to watch them stumble along aimlessly and I fear that this revelation bodes for more of the same.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      If this is the product line that de Nyesschen inherited at Infiniti, and Carlos is screaming for numbers, he’s wise to get out now.

      Infiniti has 25 years of mostly stumbling along. Cadillac has 110 years, the first 70 of which were glorious, and the last 15 have been “promising. I’d say Nissan is more likely to abandon Infiniti than GM to do the same to Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Cadillac is in much better shape.

      While the decision-makers at Cadillic made the mistake of making the ATS too cramped in the rear as the rest of the segment has gotten larger, the CTS is solidly in 3rd place within its segment (even with the XTS in the same price-range) with the upcoming Omega flagship.

      Where Cadillac needs to move quickly is in expanding its meager CUV lineup beyond the aging SRX.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Question: Can you “buy” the kind of success infiniti and now cadillac are hoping for, does it have to be built, or what combination of each is the magic formula?

    Is it just a desperate ploy to hire a big name to head up a division or does it make a real differnce? Mullaly and Ghosn say it works, I’m struggling for examples of the opposite beyond Behar but my gut tells me there are more duds than hits.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    Are you all trying to say that de Nysschen was in the right place at the right time? Perhaps he was at Audi. Still, I suspect that is what most execs need for success in the auto business.

    GM’s current problems aren’t hurting the monthly numbers too bad, at least not yet. Cadillac is hurting but at least has good product and name recognition. I think Americans WANT to like what they’re selling. The dealer organization is good. Unfortunately it’s been marred by bad pricing and marketing. With useless types like Ferguson and Docherty at the helm and good people like Don Butler forced out, it’s no wonder they’ve floundered. The ELR is just the punch line to a bad joke.

    Infiniti was and is a ClusterF—. The competitiveness and value proposition of the G-series versus BMW 3 and Audi A4 are what’s kept them alive. With the former gone, I suspect ugliness will ensure.

    Perhaps de Nysschen knows this too, can’t meet Carlos’ goals and is running for Detroit, where by GM standards he’s already an All-Star. I do wish him well.

  • avatar
    carguy

    This is actually a good choice for Cadillac. GM has invested considerable resources in producing a good product portfolio which should appeal to an expanded market base but the marketing has been absolutely atrocious. The experience with the Audi brand name rehabilitation is a good starting point for Cadillac – as long as the GM bureaucracy allows him to do his job.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Does this mean Cadillac will now spend a billion dollars to achieve multiple overall wins at Le Mans? Because that’s gonna be awesome.

  • avatar
    mvlbr

    Career wise is this a step up or step down?

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Given the direction Infiniti is headed, I’d call it a step up. If he were leaving Audi, it would be a lateral move at best.

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        Anyone who decided to go from G35 to Q50 should be fired for sheer stupidity.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          Mr. de Nysschen was only there two years. The Q50 was well under way when he arrived. I would say others are responsible.

          On the other hand, it’s selling. Go figure.

          • 0 avatar
            GiddyHitch

            The Q50 is a better car than the G37 in terms of exterior design, interior design, and materials quality. The G always sold in good numbers (or got leased to deadbeats according to TTAC), so the Q sales shouldn’t be a shock. Infiniti needs to do a better job with their EX and FX replacements, and while I like the M, not many other people seem to share that sentiment.

        • 0 avatar
          GiddyHitch

          Their reasoning was sound (boxed in by other makers trademarking similar alphanumerics and unable to grow/evolve their product line), but they got stuck with the lamest of letters, with the possible exception of W.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I wonder if he consulted in the research and decision on pricing the ELR?

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Snot-nose comment

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Johan – you’ll get my respect if you kill off that stupid ELR right now.

      Its 700-day supply embarrasses the brand.

      Better yet: buy them all back, crush them, and apologize to the market.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The problem with the ELr is what DKN was referring to – it’s grossly over-priced for what it is. Somebody at Cadillac apparently thought the Hollywood crowd would trade in their Priuses for more luxury and ratcheted up the price.

        Cadillac still needs to follow the Lexus path: under-price the luxury competition while outdoing them on fit, finish and reliability. Meanwhile, GM needs to hire somebody as top salesman who knows what he/she is doing. They haven’t had a top chief since Joel Ewanick was forced out by Akerson.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “Somebody at Cadillac apparently thought the Hollywood crowd would trade in their Priuses for more luxury…”

          Tesla took 8% of the US luxury market last year – outselling 7-series, A8, and S-class.

          Cadillac’s just trying to get a piece of that action.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            It was a good idea. The execution is horrible. Why wasn’t Leonardo di Caprio driving an ELR months before they unleashed that horrible ad? That’s what Tesla did.

            Screwing up details like this is the kind of thing that happens when no one is in charge.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Yikes, up to $19K off MSRP at fitzmall.com

      • 0 avatar
        VenomV12

        Jesus, a month ago the dealership by me had them for $8K off, they are up to $19K off now? I know they are leasing them for something like $600/mo which is almost half off what they should lease for.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I am about to state an opinion that some will perceive as arrogant, while other will inevitably agree with it and perceive it as something far closer to fact; the overwhelming majority of people are terrible negotiators, and they couldn’t be further from Steve Lang’s “hit ‘em where they ain’t” school of rational & aggressive negotiating than imaginable.

          I’ve yet to purchase a new car (5 so far) where I did not receive at least 20% off sticker, and my last new car had an MSRP of barely under $29,000, yet I drove that car off the lot at an even 22k ($23,540 including sales tax, title and other fees OTD) – so that was approx 23% off of the window sticker.

          I negotiated the sale of a Cadillac SRX for my sister in 2012 for $34,400, and the MSRP on that vehicle was $43something, so that was almost 10k off MSRP (it was a FWD Luxury trim).

          My brother easily scores anywhere from 10k to 14k off the sticker of the GM pickups he buys new, routinely.

          I would never buy an ELR, but if I did, it wouldn’t be even a theoretical possibility unless I was able to knock a minimum of 20k, and closer to 25k, probably, off the ridonkulous sticker.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            It’s not hard to get 20% off sticker for a vehicle the dealer is desperate to move. I’m sure you could get an ELR for $50k today, although I can’t imagine wanting one.

            You won’t achieve this at a Honda dealer.

            But like you, in May I got 25% off MSRP on a ’13 Optima Hybrid, since Kia was eager to move them out. They were giving about 19% for no effort, then I got them down another 6%. The dealer cleaned out their inventory of 6 hybrids in one day as a result.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            I imagine that getting an ELR for $40K is possible by year’s end. Why would anyone want to? It’s already tainted goods.

            How much of a “premium” will the Caddy be worth by next summer? While most lease, anyone who actually paid near MSRP to be first on the block is looking at 75% depreciation. Most 1-2 year old Chevy Volts have a $20K asking price, which probably translates to less.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Hello, zis is Ferdy Piech.

    As you can see, my master plan for VW world domination is going smoothly. Ghosn was getting entirely too uppity, so I placed de Nysschen on the market subtly, and he was snapped up as a double agent. Following my orders, he urged Ghosn to make Infinitis only in Infiniti factories, and then moved Infiniti HQ to Shanghai or Hong Kong, thousands of kilometres from central Japan and the only “sort of” Infiniti factory.

    Brilliant!

    Und then – I got de Nysschen to change all the Infiniti model names so ze customers became confused! Even more genius!

    Of course Ghosn had to let him go, but with great cunning I made sure he was known to be available, and ze fools at GM hired him at Cadillac. Just wait for new model names like ATS Toreador, and CTS Brussels to emphasize European desirability. Ha ha.

    After ruining Cadillac by spending a billion trying to sell zose dumbkopf cars in Europe, de Nysschen will once again rejoin the VW Executive Board.

    Now, my thoughts are concentrated on making Americans buy VWs by the millions. Extra cupholders and lift kits for customization … extra wagens and CUVs. What do you think?

    Baron Ferdinand von Piech

  • avatar
    Victor

    So, Cadillacs will be named CTS 10, CTS 20… Not very clever.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Seems a good move by GM since de Nysschen is well regarded in the industry and has applicable experience.

    Former editor BS liked de Nysschen and hated GM, will be interesting to see his reaction. This should help Cadillac, they have the product but needed extra help.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    I realize that this will sound wildly fantastic and unbelievable, but I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that maybe – just maybe – this is a very wealthy middle aged guy whose reached a point in his life that a major move such as this might not JUST be about career and money. (if you’re under age 50 or so you probably won’t understand how this can be possible)


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