Cadillac at a crossroads - againComment on this story
Detroit, Michigan - Newly-appointed Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen - the brand's third boss in two years - faces a daunting task that his predecessors failed to complete: How to reposition General Motors’ 112-year-old premium brand as a true competitor to BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
De Nysschen will have more autonomy and authority than previous Cadillac chiefs. He may need it.
In a rising US car market, Cadillac is being pummeled by the German luxury marques, which have blanketed the sector with mainstream and niche models and are outselling their Detroit rival by 2-1.
GM has labored for years to rebuild Cadillac into a global brand, but it has constantly stumbled to re-establish Cadillac's stature in its home market.
De Nysschen needs to douse several fires immediately that have bruised the brand's image.
There are too many cars sitting in US dealers' showrooms - but not enough of the right cars to blunt the Germans' assault. He also must contend with heavy discounting by Cadillac dealers - and, on top of that, the company has issued a plethora of safety recalls this year on virtually every model that is currently available in Cadillac showrooms.
These and other issues have fueled a revolving door at the top of Cadillac. De Nysschen was recruited from Nissan to replace Robert Ferguson, who’s been named senior vice-president of global public policy.
Ferguson had headed Cadillac since October 2012.
Cadillac dealers on Friday said the brand needed two things to succeed: Consistency of leadership and the opportunity to function as a stand-alone entity within GM.
Howard Drake, owner of Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks, California, and a member of Cadillac's national dealer council, said the brand needs “its own team, its own resources, its own profit and loss accountability”.
“Cadillac is struggling with some brand perception issues and Johan is a master brand builder,” Drake said, adding that GM President Dan Ammann told dealers he planned to give De Nysschen “a lot of autonomy”.
One of the new guy's first tasks will be to revamp Cadillac's sales and marketing efforts.
Tin the first six months of 2014, Cadillac’s US sales fell two percent while BMW rose 12 percent and Mercedes eight percent.
Cadillac is getting several new products designed to broaden its appeal, especially to luxury European buyers.
The most notable of the future Cadillacs is the LTS, a flagship sedan due in late 2015 and aimed at the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class sedans.
Cadillac also plans to add a small crossover in late 2017 that is targeted at the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Cadillac's Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus, a former BMW marketing executive, pointed out: “There are no great brands without great products; but even the greatest products in the world do not sell themselves.”
Rebuilding the brand's image and Americans' perception of it could be the biggest challenge for de Nysschen and his team.
A former top GM executive said bluntly: “Cadillac has had trouble figuring out who its audience is.
“I hope they give De Nysschen the authority and leeway he is going to need.”