Cadillac president departs as turnaround hits snag

Cadillac president departs as turnaround hits snag

Looking to accelerate the latest turnaround effort at its middling Cadillac unit, General Motors makes a major change at the very top of the brand, immediately replacing the charismatic luxury-car veteran Johan de Nysschen with longtime company executive and manager Steve Carlisle.

Carlisle's previous leadership positions with GM include "vice president, Global Product Planning (2010-2014); vice president, U.S. Sales Operations (2010); and president and managing director, Southeast Asia Operations (2007-2010)", according to the company.

Cadillac was long the luxury market sales leader, but it fell off its throne in the 1990s as import brands like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz read the tea leaves and responded to a rapidly changing auto industry.

GM named Travis Hester as Carlisle's replacement in Canada.

"The potential for Cadillac across the globe is incredible and I'm honored to be chosen to be a part of mapping that future", the news release quoted Carlisle as saying.

"I look forward to building on our current momentum as we continue on our mission to position Cadillac at the pinnacle of luxury", Carlisle said.

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According to GM, Carlisle led a resurgence of GM brands in Canada, where previous year it was the top-seller of vehicles to individual retail buyers.

Carlisle will report to Ammann.

De Nysschen, 58, became president of Cadillac in August 2014 after stints as CEO of Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti brand and head of Audi's US business. The $12 billion project, announced in 2016, was controversial with dealers at the time, prompting the company to offer buyouts.

Cadillac's US sales past year fell 8.0% to 156,440 units, while BMW deliveries slumped a more modest 3.4% to 352,790 light vehicles and demand at Mercedes was off just 1.4% to 375,409, reflecting the ability of the Germans to respond more quickly to the market's shift. In his tenure with Audi, de Nysschen oversaw the German luxury brand's sales renaissance from 2004-2012.

Sales rose to 302,826 last year from 263,335 in 2015, his first full year on the job. On the plus side, Cadillac has gained significant momentum in China, now the world's largest luxury vehicle market. In 2017, GM was number one in automotive retail sales in Canada, with Buick, GMC and Cadillac achieving their best ever sales years.

Unlike de Nysschen, his successor, Carlisle, has spent his entire career at GM. That ranged from additions to its product portfolio to the decision to move Caddy from Detroit to New York City to give it more distance from the parent company and put it at the center of one of the country's biggest luxury vehicle markets. The South African-native De Nysschen was a cheerfully demanding executive, hardly a GM company man, easily identified due to his height, his clipped mustache, and his two-tone Breitling wristwatch. He also renamed Cadillac models with a mix of letters and numbers, allowing only the Escalade SUV to retain an actual word as its nameplate.

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