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Cadillac brings in more big guns

Local ties: Seen here with the Cadillac ATS Coupe at the 2014 Geneva motor show, Dave Leone has been integrally involved for many years in GM rear-drive vehicle development, including the Holden Commodore.

Australia waits as Cadillac strategy deepens with key new managers, huge model wave

20 Aug 2015

CADILLAC president Johan de Nysschen has made two key new appointments in product strategy and engineering as the US luxury brand executes an ambitious $12 billion turnaround plan that will bring a string of new models over the next five years and aims to achieve 500,000 global sales by 2020 – up from a forecast 300,000 this year.

As he seeks more autonomy from General Motors, turning Cadillac into a separate business unit from 2017 and launching no fewer than nine new models before the end of the decade – five new crossovers or SUVs, a compact car and three redesigned models across small and mid-size segments – Mr de Nysschen has this week appointed former BMW executive Richard Brekus as director of global product strategy.

He also recently secured the services of David Leone as the dedicated executive chief engineer of Cadillac product programs.

Mr Leone is a veteran GM engineer with strong ties to Holden in Australia via his global responsibility for rear-wheel-drive platform and vehicle development.

He was previously chief engineer for global performance luxury cars across the company and lead executive chief engineer for the Cadillac brand, and had ultimate responsibility for a raft of key models including the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and the Holden Commodore-based Chevrolet SS.

 center imageFrom top: Cadillac executive chief engineer David Leone on the VF Commodore engineering development drive.
Lower: Cadillac director of global product strategy Richard Brekus.
As GoAuto has reported, Australia and other right-hand-drive markets feature in Cadillac’s transformation plan, with Holden expected to stage another attempt at launching the brand here after pulling out in January 2009, just two weeks before the CTS was to enter showrooms.

However, as Mr de Nysschen made it clear to GoAuto at the New York auto show in April, a relaunch in right-hook markets such as Australia and the UK “is definitely in the plan, but in terms of time horizon … probably seven or eight years out”.

Speaking to Wall Street analysts at a conference earlier this month, Mr de Nysschen admitted that his expansion plans for Europe – which is integrally linked to the UK and therefore right-hand-drive production – had been pushed back to “beyond 2020” and that the key priorities for Cadillac outside the US were China, the Middle East and Russia.

That means potential Australian customers – not to mention Holden managers planning sports and luxury car replacements for the current unique Australian-built Commodore and derivatives, which will be discontinued in 2017 – will have to be patient as far as Cadillac is concerned.

While Australian Andrew Smith is responsible for designing the new wave of Cadillac models, Mr Brekus is charged with leading the brand’s product planning, product management and portfolio planning across Cadillac’s global regions, and will play a key role in determining its third attempt at launching on the Australian market.

“Richard’s appointment to Cadillac’s management team signals our heightened focus on growing the brand with a balanced product portfolio across our global markets,” Mr de Nysschen said.

“I look forward to having him on my team as a strategic partner who will play a key role in continuing our brand transformation.”

Since 2013, Mr Brekus has been president of MSP Advisors, providing product, marketing and sales consulting services to automotive original equipment manufacturers.

Prior to that, he held senior positions in corporate and product strategy, pricing, volume planning and new-car sales over an 18-year period at BMW of North America.

Earlier in his career, Mr Brekus worked as director of the automotive unit for international management consultancy Arthur D Little.

Mr Leone, meanwhile, has worked for General Motors since 1979 and has held a variety of leadership positions within engineering, working on Cadillac programs for most of the time – including 13 years as chief engineer for the brand – but also serving as global vehicle line executive and global vehicle chief engineer in charge of rear-wheel-drive and performance vehicles.

He oversaw the development of the Alpha platform that underpins models such as the Cadillac ATS and CTS, and which will provide the basis for the new-generation Camaro that switches from the current Australian-developed Zeta architecture – a platform for which Mr Leone was also responsible.

“Dave’s appointment to this critical role reinforces our commitment to transforming the brand through a singular focus on engineering and product development,” Mr de Nysschen said.

“I have no doubt that Dave’s leadership and experience in quantifying Cadillac’s DNA through the lens of our engineering efforts will be a strong contributor to our success.”

Mr Leone is now responsible for Cadillac’s “brand focus through engineering and product development” and will be the single point of contact for Cadillac products within the organisation’s global product development programs.

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