It’s official, Johan de Nysschen is gone from Cadillac. After four years of many promises and 50% actual deliverance, GM has decided he’s not doing enough to save Cadillac, so they’ve uprooted him and replaced him with the former head of GM Canada. While de Nysschen’s promises and plans may have not come to fruition as many had hoped, I still can’t help but feel semi-uneasy about the future of Cadillac after this. So, I’m going to give some thoughts about this.
Cadillac’s journey has not been easy in the past couple of decades. The art & science philosophy brought along some interest in the early 2000s, but ultimately failed to really help much. The V-Series garnered attention from enthusiasts, but they found themselves clamoring for Ms and AMGs instead. Cadillac’s been trying for nearly 20 years now to gain back that glamorous image from 50 years ago, but it seems that every time they gain traction, they lose their way.
When de Nysschen stepped into the frame in late 2013, Cadillac was just rolling out the new CTS, which poised huge potential. Couple that with the ATS that had just gone on sale, and the brand was pushing towards a real world-beating lineup. However, what they lacked was a real presence in advertising, and some definite continuity among the line, with outdated models such as the Escalade and SRX being their top sellers. Johan de Nysschen promised a humongous turnaround for Cadillac and presented plans such as the New York HQ move and the alphanumeric designation change to bring Cadillac up to spec.
Some of these decisions did prove controversial, but they were smart considering the market that they were aiming for at the time. Lincoln was not flipping the genre on its head by bringing back actual names at the time and New York seemed like a more exquisite place to hold a luxury car HQ versus crime-ridden Detroit. There was logic behind these changes, despite what many people may thing (including myself, Cadillac-apologist be damned). Johan also pushed forth a new idea behind the pricing of the lineup, bringing Cadillac MSRPs into the range of their German and Japanese competitors. This was also controversial, but logical, as they were really trying to shed that image of being the “cheaper alternative.”
During de Nysschen’s tenure, we’ve seen the introduction of some fantastic cars, the CT6, the new Vs, the XT5. All of which pose a definite move in the right direction for the brand, but his ideas for how to advertise this brand have not helped sales at all. Some might argue that they’ve mostly hurt them. So, I can see why GM has decided that de Nysschen deserves the boot, and perhaps it may be for the better. It clearly wasn’t working out, so why pump more money into stuff that isn’t working?
In all honestly, de Nysschen’s firing isn’t what scares me, though, it’s their replacement for him that does.
As mentioned prior, de Nysschen’s replacement, Steve Carlisle, is the former head of GM Canada. While his tenure at GM Canada, he’s focused a lot on labor and production in the great white north, with a rule that seems largely business like. Basically, he seems more like a bean counter.
What made de Nysschen so interesting to people like me was that he seemed like a man with a vision, he was one to dare to do risky stuff, hence some of his controversial decisions. I personally feel like that’s what Cadillac needs in the CEO seat, and while it’s uncertain whether or not Carlisle can provide such a vision, I’ve got a bad feeling that it won’t be the same as what’s leaving. The fact that GM has decided to replace from inside the company rather than seek an outsider like de Nysschen makes me feel as if GM is trying to get their grubby hands onto Cadillac, which makes me fear that we may end up going backwards in terms of innovation, meaning that the future Cadillac lineup will once again be loaded with rebadged Buicks like it was 15 years ago.
I will always hope for the best for my favorite brand, and I’m always happy to see them change. I just only want them to change for the better, but you can never trust GM, as much as they may change. I wish all the best to Carlisle and I hope he can bring upon the much-needed renaissance that can finally boost Cadillac to where they need to be, but hopefully you can understand my skepticism.
And please, Mr. Carlisle...you know what to do.