According to usually reliable contacts close to the upper echelons of GM management, the company is thinking very seriously about moving its premium brand Cadillac from grungy Detroit to swank Manhattan.
Realigning the office location with the brand aspirations is not the only reason that drives the move. Physical separation from the corporate parent would help the brand find (back to) its own identity, and provide it with the space in which autonomy and creativity breed great products.
Johan de Nysschen, since August 1 2014 CEO of Cadillac, is very familiar with the need to move away from an overbearing mother. His whole career is a moving story.
In various positions, de Nysschen was with Audi from 1993 through 2012. When de Nysschen started as General Manager of Audi South Africa, the brand slowly, but surely became independent, prodded by a relentless Ferdinand Piech. When de Nysschen became President of Audi Japan in 1999, he separated the distribution channel from Toyota, which at the time distributed the bulk of Volkswagen and Audi cars in Japan. Eventually, this led to the end of Volkswagen’s Japanese distribution agreement with Toyota.
De Nysschen became President of Audi of America in 2004. At the time, the location was Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Volkswagen greybeards each day cursed “den Idioten” who made the company abandon the scenic view of Manhattan, seen across the Hudson from Volkswagen’s Englewood Cliffs office windows, and trade it for the drudgery of suburban Detroit. Four years after de Nysschen’s arrival in Auburn Hills, it was pack and go, and the windows of VWoA overlooked the Dulles Toll Road, not quite Manhattan, but feeling the pulse of America’s official seat of power.
Not able to separate the U.S. offices of Audi from those of Volkswagen, de Nysschen ordered a radical separation in the heads of the people who worked for him. At Audi, de Nysschen banned the word “Volkswagen.”
In 2012, de Nysschen was President of Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti, a career move that coincided with yet another corporate relocation. Infiniti left the warm nest of the Yokohama parent, and spread its wings on three high floors of the Citibank Tower in Hong Kong, where, on a clear day, you could see China.
De Nysschen, who heretofore had been an overseas salesman for product made in Ingolstadt, wanted to be in charge of premium product and brand. The 52 year old saw Infiniti as “the final chapter in my career – establishing a premium brand is a long term thing. Great brands are not born overnight.”
It wasn’t quite the last chapter. A few months ago, de Nysschen surprised his closest confidantes with the news that he would exchange the helm of Infiniti with that of Cadillac, a formerly glorious brand that had turned in to a rudderless ship.
Moving Cadillac to Manhattan, in physical contact with some of the nation’s most affluent zip codes, could provide the climate necessary for the rebirth of true American luxury. After all, the Germans may hold the monopoly on automotive affluence, but when managers of the “German Three” want to savior unadulterated luxury themselves, they hit Manhattan.
Trust me, I know.
PS: Later in the day, Reuters confirmed that “General Motors Co’s premium Cadillac group is considering expanding its offices from Detroit to Manhattan, GM said Thursday, as part of an effort to remake the brand’s image and broaden its appeal outside North America under new boss Johan de Nysschen. ” Reuters says it is “possible that de Nysschen could shift marketing, advertising and strategy to Manhattan.”