Infiniti will not retreat when the going gets tough. That’s the frank statement from Infiniti Australia product planning manager Bernard Michel, who confessed that some people continue to make the link between Nissan’s slow-selling luxury offshoot and the pulling out of Holden’s European sibling, Opel, after less a year on-sale.
In the clearest vote of confidence for Infiniti yet, Michel pledged that the introduction of an Audi Q5-rivalling medium SUV next year would mark the “next onslaught of sales” for the brand, which is up 49 per cent this year. More local dealerships will follow, too.
“You can set up a network pretty quickly as you’ve seen with Opel, then dismantle it pretty quickly as well,” he said.
“The brand is at a stage where it’s building confidence with consumers. There was always from my point of view a link with Opel and ‘are you going to pull out?’ and that’s fair enough.
“But we’re owned by Nissan Corporation, it’s embedded in Australia. We don’t have a reason to run. It’s about getting our fair share and developing this business, developing the network and the brand and these sorts of elements.”
This year marks Infiniti’s fifth birthday in this country. In 2012 it sold 85 units. Last year it tallied 807 sales – but in a market where Lexus sold 9000 and Mercedes-Benz 42,000.
Its dealership base has gone from an initial three to eight outlets nationwide, with another three (Melbourne CBD, northern Queensland and Hobart) potentially to be added.
“I think we can sustain some growth, I don’t know if it’s going to be that steep [50 per cent growth] because we’re still expanding the network and I think that’s going to be the catalyst for the next onslaught of sales,” Michel added.
“[It was difficult] coming off the back of three dealers and trying to get sustainable volume off those dealers when research tells you people will not travel more than 30 minutes [to buy a car]. We’ve seen that last year and with our numbers growing, albeit small, that once you open a dealership in the right location people are seeing the value in the cars.”
Michel ruled out lowering the price of its models in a bid to improve sales, however. Instead he confirmed the arrival of a circa-$60,000 Audi Q5 competitor in 2018.
“I think a medium-sized SUV is the one for this market,” he continued.
“You’ve seen the press on that QX Sport Inspiration come out, so we’re watching that vigilantly and we think that’s the car, the punters are telling us that [although we] probably won’t see it this year. I mean they haven’t actually unveiled the car [yet].”
Asked whether the production medium SUV looks like 2016’s Beijing motor show debutant concept, Michel replied: “It does, it’s pretty close.”
“That’s the one that will continue the growth for Infiniti in this country. That will grow the business exponentially.”