Turnarounds are Johan de Nysschen’s specialty. He steered Audi of America back from the brink, he was instrumental in reshaping Infiniti, and now he is on a similar mission at Cadillac, which continues to trail the leading luxury nameplates. De Nysschen, named president of the high-end GM subsidiary in 2014, plans “to reinstate exclusivity, reinvent luxury, and add crossovers to make sure that Cadillacs are parked in the right driveways again.”
The means to this end are familiar: Reduce exposure to fleet markets to ensure higher transaction prices and fewer rebates, maintain smaller inventories, and — crucially — build more desirable products. Here, de Nysschen is pushing an evolutionary design change, a massive quality boost, and a second-to-none ownership experience.
To get his message through loud and clear, Cadillac will invest $800 million in its U.S. retail organization by 2020, paving the way for progressive alternative forms of vehicle use. De Nysschen has already unveiled BOOK by Cadillac, a scheme in which customers can drive as many different Cadillac models as they like for a flat fee of $1,500 a month.
On the product side, with the sedan market that used to be Cadillac’s stronghold in freefall, the brand urgently needs more crossovers. The highly profitable, truck-based Escalade will continue as a body-on-frame vehicle, though it’s rumored to be getting an independent rear suspension and more powerful engines, including a supercharged V-8. However Cadillac’s other upcoming SUV offerings will be lighter, more efficient, and more dynamic.
A spaceframe crossover inspired by the Escala show car is likely to be Cadillac’s new halo model. “More organic, boasting different proportions, a beautiful sculpture on wheels,” de Nysschen says of the design.
In total, analysts predict four new crossovers:
- XT1 (or XT2): BMW X1-sized. Due in 2020.
- XT3: BMW X3-sized, built using GM’s rear-drive long wheelbase Alpha architecture. Expected in 2018.
- XT5: Second-generation model to be BMW X5-size and based on Omega hardware. Due in 2021.
- XT7 (or XT8): BMW X7-size. Also Omega-based and expected in 2019.
A similar pattern applies to the upcoming passenger cars:
- CT1 (or CT2): BMW 1 Series-sized. Due in 2021.
- CT3: A Mercedes CLA-Class competitor that will replace the ATS. Alpha-based and expected in 2018.
- CT5: Long-wheelbase, Alpha-based replacement for the CTS due for 2019.
- CT6: Already launched.
- CT8: A new Omega-based flagship due in 2021.
It is not yet clear whether the smaller future Cadillacs will use GM’s front-wheel drive Delta architecture or an evolution of the rear-drive Alpha components set. For the larger vehicles, however, the Omega matrix is the undisputed favorite. “Electrification is a must,” acknowledges de Nysschen, “but in terms of plug-in hybrid and EV technology, we must let GM carry the candle.”
In his quest to boost volume from the 308,000 units sold last year, de Nysschen will concentrate on China to provide fast growth. Europe is not a priority at the moment, but this will change by 2022 at the latest.
“By then, we shall have a full, up-to-date portfolio, including right-hand drive,” de Nysschen says. “I don’t expect big numbers. Instead, I see Cadillac as a profitable boutique luxury brand in Europe. We are consciously going down different avenues from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes.”