OSHAWA, Ont. _ The Ontario-born head of General Motors Canada is moving to head Cadillac, the global automaker’s luxury car division as part of a management rotation Wednesday.
Steve Carlisle, a native of Woodstock, Ont., who began his career in 1982 as an engineering co-op student at GM’s Oshawa Truck Plant, had risen through the ranks to become president of the Canadian operation in November 2014.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias said he considers Carlisle as an ally in protecting the Canadian operation, which includes Unifor-represented operations in several Ontario cities.
Dias said the Oshawa complex, where GM Canada has its headquarters, was headed for closure in June of this year, but Carlisle was determined that it wouldn’t close under his watch.
“For me, it was imperative, during the 2016 contract negotiations, to have someone who I believed was an ally and who was looking for a solution,” Dias said in a telephone interview.
“There was always an element of comfort knowing the head of GM Canada was actually a Canadian.”
Carlisle’s replacement as president of GM Canada is Travis Hester, who began his GM career in 1995 in Australia. Since moving to the United States in 2005, Hester has had engineering positions in the U.S. and China. He became GM’s vice-president for global product programs in 2016.
Dias said he plans to meet with Hester soon, but didn’t know him yet and wouldn’t comment on his appointment.
Carlisle will replace Johan de Nysschen, who is leaving effectively immediately as head of the Cadillac group, as it prepares to bring out the XT4 _ a compact utility vehicle.
“We appreciate Johan’s efforts over the last four years in setting a stronger foundation for Cadillac,” said General Motors president Dan Ammann said in a statement.
“Looking forward, the world is changing rapidly, and, beginning with the launch of the new XT4, it is paramount that we capitalize immediately on the opportunities that arise from this rate of change. This move will further accelerate our efforts in that regard.”
Carlisle, who becomes a senior vice-president of the parent company as well as president of Cadillac, will report to Ammann while Hester will report to Alan Batey, president of GM North America.
Dias said Carlisle’s appointment to head Cadillac will raise his profile and influence within General Motors headquarters in Detroit and that “would be a huge benefit for us.”
GM Canada and other automakers are grappling with uncertainty surrounding the NAFTA trade talks and a period of rapid technological change.
Under Carlisle’s leadership, GM Canada has made a number of moves to keep the operation at the forefront of technological innovations while retaining some of its traditional manufacturing operations.
In January, the company officially opened a software development operation in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto, that’s part of GM’s plans for driverless vehicles.
Among the Markham team’s projects is Super Cruise, an automated driving technology used in Cadillac’s new generation.
It’s also involved in infotainment systems, which are finding their way into the products on the road, and a driverless car pilot project that GM wants to run in 2019.