The showing of GM's top brass -- a rarity at a stand-alone dealer meeting -- was viewed by several attendees as a sign that de Nysschen has been given a broad mandate to reshape Cadillac.
"Both Mary Barra and Ammann essentially said: We're putting our entire credibility on the line to support Cadillac," said Carl Sewell, owner of Sewell Automotive Cos. of Dallas, which owns four Cadillac stores. "It was reassuring and inspirational."
Still, it's clear that the vision being sketched by de Nysschen, who arrived on Aug. 1 after two years leading Infiniti, will be a jolt to the collective dealer body. His philosophy of creating some scarcity for a product that until now has been too frequently subject to $249-a-month leases and end-of-the-month fire sales won't come naturally to some of Cadillac's 900 U.S. dealerships.
De Nysschen said in an interview this month that Cadillac must "bring your volume aspirations into alignment with reality and accept that you will sell fewer cars."
"I'm far more interested in the quality of the business than the quantity," he said.
De Nysschen delivered a similarly blunt message to dealers about the prospects for short-term sales gains, according to a person who attended the Las Vegas meeting and who declined to be identified discussing details of the private meeting. "He said that things are going to get worse before they get better," the attendee said.
The message stood in stark contrast to the same meeting two years earlier, when Cadillac executives predicted that sales would be approaching an annual rate of 300,000 vehicles by next year. Sales this year are on pace to fall short of last year's 182,543 total. Through August, Cadillac sold 114,008 vehicles, 5 percent fewer than in the same period in 2013.
Yet de Nysschen did acknowledge with his two-for-one crack, and in later remarks, that the short-term oversupply of 2014 sedans is a problem. Without offering details, he "made it clear there will be some tactical plays in next few days and weeks to get us out from under these 2014 sedans," said Howard Drake, chairman of the Cadillac National Dealer Council and owner of Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
As of Sept. 1, Cadillac dealers were sitting on 132 days of car inventory, vs. 45 for BMW, 52 for Mercedes-Benz and 42 for Audi, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Through August this year, Cadillac had the highest incentive spending of 35 U.S. brands at $6,425 per vehicle, according to Autodata Corp. That amount, which factors in consumer rebates, discount financing, lease subvention, dealer incentive contests and other incentives, was more than double that of Audi ($3,000) and well above Mercedes ($3,538) and BMW ($4,457).
Drake said: "Until we get to the right inventory model, we can't get to the right pricing model."