Johan de Nysschen came to Cadillac — where he is president, responsible for the GM brand around the word — in 2014. He had been president of Infiniti from 2012 to 2014.

What he is probably most associated with, however, is his tenure at Audi. De Nysschen joined the German company in 1993 as head of Audi South Africa, the country from which he hails. In 1999 he was named president of Audi of Japan. Then he was moved to the U.S., where he worked from 2004 to 2012, ending his tenure there as president and being credited with transforming the German company's fortunes in the U.S. market.

Presumably when he was recruited to Cadillac, the hope was that he'd work the same sort of engineered magic that he'd done at Audi.

Although de Nysschen has been at Cadillac for just under 3.5 years (he joined in August 2014), the recently released numbers of Cadillac global sales seem as though the company has been energized — in China.

Not so much in the U.S.

That is, according to Cadillac's own figures, in January 2018 the company delivered 9,895 vehicles in the U.S., which is down 3.9 percent from January 2017. And it should be noted that the January 2017 U.S. sales were down 4.1 percent from January 2016. Not only are these comparatively small numbers, they aren't directionally desirable, either.

It should be noted, however, that much of the Cadillac showroom is something that de Nysschen inherited. During his tenure the company has launched the CT6 full-size sedan and the XT5 midsize crossover, with the former doing OK (its January sales were 628 units, down 0.9 percent) and the latter doing reasonably well (the XT5 January sales were up 2.7 percent over last year, to 3,989 units, which makes it, by far, the best-selling Cadillac in the U.S. market).

So all in for January in the U.S., Cadillac sold 9,895 units.

But in China the brand is, comparatively speaking, on fire.

In January 2018, Cadillac sold 20,222 vehicles in China. That is up 12.3 percent compared with January 2017. And know that the 18,011 units sold by Cadillac in China in January 2017 were up 116 percent from January 2016.

That is some serious momentum.

For January 2018, Cadillac had total global sales of 31,330. There are the 9,895 U.S. sales. And the rest of the world brought in 1,213 units, which was down 17.3 percent from January 2016. So for Cadillac, it is all China. About 65 percent of all of Cadillac's sales are accounted for by that country.

De Nysschen is clearly a man who is up for a challenge. Because consider how Audi is doing in the same period in the same countries.

In January 2018 Audi sold 14,511 vehicles in the U.S. That's up 9.9 percent from January 2017. And the January 2017 sales of 13,201 units were up 11.4 percent from January 2016.

In China during January, Audi sold 60,875 vehicles, which is a gain of 73 percent compared with its sales in January 2016. However, the January 2016 sales of 35,181 units was down 35.3 percent from the previous year, so the 73 percent gain must be taken with a considerable grain of salt.

But back to the U.S. sales. There is actually a glimmer of hope for Cadillac in this space.

That is, although Audi outsold Cadillac in January, it is worth noting that its best-selling model was the Q5, with sales of 4,088 units. That's only 99 more than the Cadillac XT5, with which it competes.

At the New York Auto Show next month, Cadillac will reportedly be introducing the XT4, a smaller crossover, which will undoubtedly create a whole lot of sales for the brand. Audi sold 1,325 Q3s in the U.S. in January, so that sort of number added to the Cadillac chart would be immensely helpful.

Still, de Nysschen has his work cut out for him. Not only are there "new" competitors for Cadillac such as the Genesis brand, which will be coming out with its own crossovers in the not-too-distant future and which, in January, sold 1,243 G80 sedans. And no single Cadillac car model sold more than that during the same period (the closest was the ATS, at 1,155 in January). But even the crosstown rival Lincoln is not sitting on its hands — the Continental bested the CT6 in January with sales of 815 units).

Yes, de Nysschen is clearly in the challenge of his career. But at the end of the day, there is still China.

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