Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen is leaving General Motors and will be replaced by the head of GM Canada, Steve Carlisle, the company said Wednesday.
The move was largely unexpected by some industry observers.
Carlisle led a resurgence of the GM Canada franchise, the company said. The automaker led retail auto sales in Canada last year, and Buick, GMC and Cadillac set sales records in the country that year.
"We appreciate Johan's efforts over the last four years in setting a stronger foundation for Cadillac," said General Motors President Dan Ammann in a release. "Looking forward, the world is changing rapidly, and, beginning with the launch of the new XT4, it is paramount that we capitalize immediately on the opportunities that arise from this rate of change. This move will further accelerate our efforts in that regard."
The move comes as Cadillac takes steps to improve its performance in the luxury segment. De Nysschen had overseen a number of efforts to turn the brand around after years of lost market share in the United States. It moved its headquarters to New York City and said it would completely revamp its lineup with 11 new vehicles through 2021.
Cadillac has garnered praise for its luxury and high-performance sedans such as the CT6 and the CTS-V, but the brand has missed out on the shift in the market away from passenger cars and toward SUVs. Cadillac has recently attempted to address this shift with crossovers such as the mid-sized XT5 and the new smaller XT4 crossover, which debuted just before the New York Auto Show in March.
Cadillac also recently appointed a new chief marketing officer, former McDonald's executive Deborah Wahl, in early March.
"In general, this speaks to how competitive the premium market is, and Cadillac has not performed to the level of growth that was expected, particularly since the rejuvenation of the brand's image and the move to New York," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, which tracks the auto industry.
"I don't think the products have kept up with that change," Schuster said. "I think that the timing is interesting because you are at the launch point of a pretty critical vehicle for Cadillac with the XT4. This is one of the vehicles that is supposed to gain some momentum for the brand."
De Nysschen had previously served in top roles at Infiniti and Audi of America before taking the helm at Cadillac.