- former cadillac, infiniti, and audi executive has just moved over to volkswagen of america as chief operating officer.
- johan de nysschen is known for changing names on established vehicles, notably having renamed the infiniti lineup.
- there's little doubt the south african will continue to make headlines and interesting decisions, and we'll be watching.
johan de nysschen is back at his old employer in a new stint as volkswagen of america's chief operating officer. say goodbye to golf and all those familiar vw model names. johan has the plan!
that may be a stretch until de nysschen assumes full-time employment next tuesday, but the former cadillac, infiniti, and audi of america boss has made a career of scrambling nameplates. he'll serve under scott keogh, the man who served under him at audi and took his open ceo spot in 2012. keogh was promoted to vw of america ceo in 2018 after the company shook up its international divisions and cut costs in 2016 following the diesel scandal.
"johan will help make us faster, better, and smarter," keogh said in a statement. "he'll speed our decision-making and dive deep into our day-to-day business so we can continue to make this brand matter again."
we'd argue that volkswagen, despite the hot water it's in with the u.s. government over dieselgate, is doing just fine in america. vw's august sales rose 10 percent, with year-to-date sales through that month up 7 percent over 2018. the company abruptly pulled a 180 a couple years ago when it announced an aggressive battery-electric strategy. just recently, vw received a new (and yet older-looking) logo. all of this has been set in stone. and vw, with all of its global brands, has remained very profitable.
de nysschen, a native south african, began his vw career in 1993 as general manager for audi, then moved to japan to lead that division in 1999. by the end of 2004, he arrived in herndon, virginia, to run audi of america. de nysschen can take credit for helping toss audi's staid, plain, and warmed-over vw models into legitimate bmw and mercedes competitors.
after seven years, de nysschen moved back to asia and the bustling city of hong kong as global president of infiniti. he only stayed there two years, with his most famous accomplishment being a confusing rebrand of its q and qx models, before cadillac wooed him to relocate to manhattan. he promptly set things off to a rocky start by fighting general motors management in detroit, upsetting dealers by tying kickbacks to facility upgrades, and changing model names. there were highs and lows at cadillac during his tenure, but de nysschen exited at a low. cadillac's u.s. sales sank even during record sales for the industry as a whole, and the manhattan experiment of keeping cadillac separate had failed.
but de nysschen has been busy since exiting the company in april last year. he has called himself a "thought leader," joined an ai startup, and posted a photo on facebook in july showing that he threw out an lg television on his driveway and told the company to screw itself. de nysschen, 59, is unwilling to walk away from the car industry. in 2014 when he joined cadillac he said he had 10 years left. so the question now is: what will he do to volkswagen in the next five?
"i didn’t think i was arrogant, but if enough people have that perception, then it’s probably true," he said to car and driver in 2017. "so i’d probably want to modulate that a little bit."