Automobile snagged time with ex-Cadillac, Infiniti, and Volkswagen of America boss Johan de Nysschen. General Motors decided to part ways with de Nysschen on April 18, 2018, after the German spent four years in charge of America’s luxury brand.
The longtime auto exec is a polarizing figure for enthusiasts, who seem to take a mostly negative view of his work at Infiniti and Cadillac. However, there’s no denying de Nysschen is frank, and in the Automobile interview he puts an insider’s perspective on a big bag of issues we can only speculate on.
One of the biggest bombshells in the interview was that it wasn’t de Nysschen’s idea to move Cadillac to New York: “When I was recruited, I was informed that the company would relocate to New York,” he said. Previous GM CEO Dan Ackerson had made the decision before hiring de Nysschen, then Ackerson let his new hire make the announcement.
The big change came only two years after de Nysschen had taken over Infiniti after insisting Nissan’s luxury brand move to Hong Kong. De Nysschen explained Cadillac’s NYC move with the same rationale as Infiniti’s Hong Kong move, so everyone assumed the new guy was doing his usual.
He explains in the interview that after the move, “Folks who rooted for Detroit felt betrayed. Cadillac had an enemy.” And that became a problem.
He has nothing bad to say about GM or Cadillac, believing on the contrary that “GM is in a good position going forward.” But he brought clarity to some of Cadillac’s struggles. Among the issues was GM’s “very vigorous” post-bankruptcy test for green-lighting a project.
Another was the lack of specialization for the luxury arm. ” Engines were generically developed with the Chevy brand in mind,” he said, “and, then, ‘Okay, well, yeah, it’s good enough for Cadillac.'” That carried over into haphazard technology rollouts. “GM didn’t have a specific technology roadmap aligned to particular brands,” he said.
“The process was, as they were developing new technologies, they would look at what product’s launch date would be aligned with the maturation date and market readiness of a technology and go with it, whether Buick, Chevy, or what have you.”
De Nysschen worked to end such generalized approaches, which is how we get Cadillac taking the GM lead on technology and electrification. He says, “Cadillac has got some really compelling electrification entries that I think are going to dramatically change people’s perception of the brand and in particular give it a far more progressive image than it somewhat unjustifiably has in the minds of a lot of young people today.”
Head over to Automobile to read the whole piece. De Nysschen dives into the massive and multifaceted risks of electrification, the unknown unknowns about autonomy, the unjust death of diesel, the pressures of the stock market on long-term goals, quality standards at GM and Cadillac, the “catastrophic” ELR, the difficult math of the subscription ownership model, why there aren’t more sexy coupes and cabriolets, how he’s not optimistic about the long-term prospects for Fiat Chrysler, and how Carlos Ghosn “is not a nice guy” but his ouster “has all the smell of a palace coup.”