My Car Quest

April 23, 2024

The Market: What Should Cadillac Do Now?

Cadillac let go their Euro luxury car expert; so what now?

by Wallace Wyss –

I have always been a fan of the western movies where the stranger shows up in town and shakes things up. So I had big hopes four years ago when a South African car marketer, ex-Audi, ex-Infiniti, took over the helm and promised to make Cadillac great again.

Well, a head has rolled at Cadillac. Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen was let go, and now the behind the scenes infighting is supposed to lessen because his replacement, Steve Carlisle, is a long time GM insider, who won’t make so many waves.


The CT6, good but dated when brand new

But people forget that the reason de Nysschen was hired four years ago was because he was definitely an “outsider, coming from Audi and Infiniti. At the time he was hired four years ago, it was thought that an outsider would be a good thing; that he would be someone who could “think outside the box.”

Johan de Nysschen

Johan de Nysschen (from Motor Authority)

But Cadillac sales declined, because they only had two SUVs, the giant Escalade and the smaller (but still large) XT5 when the whole American market was swinging toward SUVs and pickup trucks.

You could argue that de Nysschen wasn’t fast enough on his feet to switch Cadillac production over to what the American people wanted. He did get the new design for a four door sedan approved and it is about to be introduced, but the pity is that the four door sedan is a form of car the American public has turned their back on.


The Ciel could be the flagship

And he did shepherd the option called “Super Cruise,” an app that some feel is a major step toward safe self-driving cars.

GM has distracted the public from their main problem—the truth is, they flat don’t know what to do to make Cadillac a leader again. To think it was once touted as “the standard of the world.”

De Nysschen, if remembered for anything, has been tagged with the decision to relocate Cadillac HQ to New York, but others say GM had planned that before bringing him on board. The idea, when it was credited to him, was to get Cadillac out of the ”Detroit thinking” mode and think world class and you can’t do that in the insular world of Detroit. I think they need to be outside of Detroit to figure out what New Yorkers drive to the Hamptons, and build a car for that niche. Once the “style leaders” choose certain brands, that becomes “the car to own.”


El Mirage prototype was on the right track for coupe but SUVs are the moneymaker


Admittedly some of the mis-match between GM and de Nysschen was that he was a ham; he loved stepping into the limelight a little too much for the other top executives at GM, and talked a bit too much about future products to come, when, as SUV sales rose, it was obvious Cadillac didn’t have enough coverage there (Ironically the XT4 mid size SUV was about to come out).

Here’s where I, humbly wearing the hat of an independent observer, think Cadillac should go:

– They should have four SUVs, one at every price level, even a XT-3 with a turbocharged four.

– They need to produce a rear wheel drive four door convertible like the Ciel concept car of a few years ago, with suicide doors in back. This car could be loaned to film companies as long as a year before production to get the buzz going. Lincoln Continental four door convertibles are still revered and symbolic of Lincoln but over at Ford they can’t get it together to bring back that configuration but Cadillac could.

– They need to have a design theme that sticks, that represents Cadillac and that is instantly recognizable at least from the front. I go for keeping the vertical LED light trim on the front, but they need to have that design theme carried throughout the line. Taillights they still have to work on to get something trend setting. In the women’s fashion magazines, I would announce special interior trim packages by famous decorators, showing that Cadillac is not immune to changing public taste.

– They need to continue the V-series, making that like BMW’s M-series, even if it’s only one model.

– They should buy some classic Cadillacs from the past (’58 Eldorado brougham, ’57 Biarritz convertible, etc.) and display them at auto shows (with modern color themes inside and out) to show that, even 60-70 years ago, Cadillac was producing stunning cars.

De Nysschen is to be congratulated for keeping Cadillac’s image in China going, but it is in America that the main battle needs to be fought.

There is a rumor that a larger SUV will debut, one to compete with the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7 in 2019. Cadillac is less likely to founder there, as SUVs are selling well now and could soar even higher if gas prices fall or more hybrid technology is offered in SUVs.

Johan de Nysschen was a victim; first of his own slowness to grasp the market change besetting America and secondly of not realizing how much the “status quo” attitude of GM would work against him. Cadillac needs a leader with vision to make Cadillac great again. And not only vision, but with the clout to cut through the red tape impeding new product development.

But ideas are one thing; first you have to have the product….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has been a marketing consultant for Mazda, Honda, Toyota and Ford. He can be contacted at




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What Should Cadillac Do Now?
Article Name
What Should Cadillac Do Now?
Johan de Nysschen was a victim; first of his own slowness to grasp the market change besetting America and secondly of not realizing how much the “status quo” attitude of GM would work against him.


  1. Wallace Wyss says

    To their credit, Lincoln has announced they are bringing back the opera door , once known as suicide doors, but that’s still a long way from a four door convertible with opera doors.

  2. Glenn Krasner says

    Cadillac now has even a bigger problem: Their flagship large SUV, the Escalade, is now a very dated design when conpared to the newly redesigned Lincoln Navigator. All the car magazines are espousing the greatness of the new Navigator and the second rate-ness of the Escalade.
    Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

  3. Richard Bartholomew says

    GM is big enough to do what ever they want. They will fix the Escalade and make what they think will sell in American. We don’t need euro designers anymore.

    • wallace wyss says

      Krasner is right, Ford maybe even looked at the Bentley Bentaga and prettied up the Navigator to make it more plush, which makes the Escalade more obvious as having run of the mill origins. They need new exterior styloing and an upgrade in the interior. And the little XT4 won’t do as a competitor to the Big Boys, not near big enough or plush enough to be the ultimate American SUV.

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