Infiniti’s loss of De Nysschen expected to benefit GM’s Cadillac

Annual North American Auto Show Held In Detroit
DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 14: Johan De Nysschen, president of Infinity Motor Co. Ltd., introduces the Q50 Eau Rouge concept car at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on January 14, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The auto show opens to the public January 18-26. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson—Getty Images

Johan de Nysschen’s recruitment from Audi to run Nissan’s Infiniti luxury automotive brand nearly two years ago was a major coup for Nissan and its chief executive officer, Carlos Ghosn.

Later today, General Motors Co. (GM) is expected to announce that de Nysschen will be taking over as head of its Cadillac brand, having left Infiniti abruptly after a relatively short tenure.  His reasons for leaving Infiniti are understood to be personal, relating to his family’s need to be in Detroit, where GM is based, instead of Hong Kong, where Nissan recently moved Infiniti headquarters.

Yesterday, GM announced that Bob Ferguson, who had been running Cadillac, was moving to a new job, senior vice president of public policy.

Infiniti’s results have been mediocre since its founding in the late 1980s. The brand has failed to develop into a full-fledged competitor to German luxury carmakers that include BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, as well as Toyota’s Lexus. De Nysschen began making changes immediately, starting with a revision of Infiniti’s alphanumeric nomenclature. He has promised a string of new models. Last week, Daimler and Nissan announced a venture to manufacture a jointly developed Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz in a plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Cadillac has been in turnaround mode for more than a decade, though lately management turmoil at GM has deprived it of consistent, seasoned leadership. Ferguson, hired by previous GM chief executive officer Dan Akerson, lacked automotive experience. Dealers have complained of poor communication and unclear direction.

With de Nysschen gone, Ghosn will be on the prowl for Infiniti’s new leader, perhaps an executive with a successful track record at one of the luxury competitors.

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