Exclusive: Cadillac's new boss maps out product blitz by 2020

Thu Oct 9, 2014 5:48pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman and Laurence Frost

DETROIT/PARIS (Reuters) - Cadillac's new boss plans a blitz of new products by 2020, from a pure battery-electric car to an ultra-luxury sedan, that he hopes will help resurrect General Motors' (GM.N: Quote) struggling premium brand and make it a global powerhouse.

Johan de Nysschen, a former Audi and Infiniti executive who joined GM in August, shared with Reuters some key elements of his plan to revive Cadillac, in an interview last week at the Paris auto show.

The centerpiece of that strategy, confirmed by de Nysschen for the first time, is an expansion of Cadillac's product portfolio, potentially from five to 10 models over the next six years.

South African-born de Nysschen, Cadillac's third boss in two years, has taken over a 112-year-old brand that is being pummeled on its home turf by the German luxury manufacturers, which have blanketed the sector with mainstream and niche models and are outselling their Detroit rival by 2-1 in the U.S. market.

De Nysschen said Cadillac has "just signed off on" a range-topping luxury sedan that will come to the market at the end of the decade and likely will be called CT8 or CT9. He added it would compete head to head with long-wheelbase versions of the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

He also confirmed that Cadillac will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the new CT6 sedan that is scheduled to arrive in late 2015, and said a pure battery-electric car is part of the plan to expand Cadillac's model range. De Nysschen also said a successor to the slow-selling ELR plug-in hybrid is being developed, but it may not be a two-door coupe like the present model.

De Nysschen is already trying to shake things up. Last month he announced plans to move the brand's headquarters from Detroit to Manhattan, to give it more independence from the corporate parent. He and former BMW executive Uwe Ellinghaus also established a new letters and numbers naming scheme for future models, similar to those used by many overseas luxury brands.

The image gap between Cadillac and its powerful German rivals was underscored by Interbrand's annual top global brands list, released on Thursday, where Daimler's (DAIGn.DE: Quote) Mercedes, BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) and Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) Audi ranked 10th, 11th and 45th, respectively.   Continued...

A Cadillac logo is pictured at the Jacob Javits Convention Center during the New York International Auto Show in New York April 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri