SAN FRANCISCO -- Last month, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said he has never had a bad make meeting at an NADA convention. His streak remains intact, by many accounts, despite ample dealer unease and some anger heading into the Jan. 24 gathering here.
The 54-year-old Cadillac chief began by saying someone had asked whether he would don a flak jacket for the event, according to people who attended. It was a lighthearted reference to controversy stirred up by his recent comments about the large size of Cadillac's dealer body.
De Nysschen reassured dealers that he isn't out to eliminate stores. But he offered no new details about the broad facility-investment plan that he had outlined a few days earlier, which calls for roughly 700 of Cadillac's 900 or so dealerships to invest in high-tech "boutique locations." He acknowledged the plan is not fully "baked" and said he would consult the Cadillac National Dealer Council and NADA on it.
The former Audi and Infiniti chief spent the first 10 minutes of the hourlong meeting talking "off script" to clarify his recent comments, said Howard Drake, owner of Casa de Cadillac in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and chairman of the dealer council.
Bill Walsh of Bill Walsh Automotive Group in Ottawa, Ill., said de Nysschen "did a phenomenal job clearing the air" and made it clear "there's no plan at all to reduce numbers."
Drake said de Nysschen told dealers that "the large footprint for Cadillac is actually an advantage ... but there has to be a consistent experience."
De Nysschen also told dealers that he expects sales to be essentially flat this year, after falling 6 percent in 2014, to 170,750 vehicles.