What Cadillac dealers can expect from Steve Carlisle

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Steve Carlisle, left, pictured with Automotive News Publisher Jason Stein earlier this year, is no stranger to Cadillac. Photo credit: JORDAN LENSSEN

An open letter to Cadillac dealers:

I have had two opportunities this past month to meet Cadillac President Steve Carlisle, who was chosen by General Motors managers to replace the ousted Johan de Nysschen.

Many of you will, if you have not already done so, get the same chance this week at the dealer meeting of the brand in Las Vegas, where Carlisle promises to describe the plans of Cadillac in 2021, including the upcoming products.

Apart from a look at the highly anticipated product renaissance, there are a few things you can expect from the GM-lifer (a term that can sometimes be used as an insult to those who have spent their entire career with the company, but not in this case).

Carlisle is gentle, methodical and data-oriented when he speaks. He does not want or demand attention (he can not even move an inch while he is on stage), but does not necessarily take it as a weakness. It is just different from what we are used to from Cadillac under the Nysschen.

They are just different leaders for different times.

De Nysschen, an outsider from GM, was noisy. He commanded attention, led Cadillac during some of his darkest days and launched his Project Pinnacle grinding stone. He threw feathers, but always had the brand at the heart of his decisions.

Carlisle, I believe, has the same intentions. However, he will try to achieve them differently than the former Infiniti and Audi executive.

Carlisle is no stranger to Cadillac. He was in Asia when GM decided to launch the brand in China; he oversaw the profits for the brand in Canada; and he led global product planning and program management when the brand's 10-year plan was made.

He knows it's not a great time for Cadillac in the US. Many of its products have long been in tune and it needed the XT4 compact crossover – which arrived in dealerships five or more years ago to meet demand from consumers to sedans and crossovers.

US sales are estimated to increase by 2.1 percent to August, according to the Automotive News Data Center. But those sales are heavily supported by fleet and incentives – with an average of 30 percent this year, according to Autodata Corp.

Many of you, as dealers, have invested millions in Project Pinnacle with the promise of a brand renaissance that can finally begin. I urge you to be as vocal with Carlisle as when you were with the Nysschen.