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Infiniti challenges itself, others in pursuit of another peak

By Li Fusheng | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-05-06 10:30

Infiniti challenges itself, others in pursuit of another peak

Infiniti President Roland Krueger delivers a speech at the Shanghai auto show on April 19, 2017.[Provided to China Daily]

Nissan Motor's premium arm Infiniti is rebranding in China as a challenger, both to itself and its rivals, in an attempt to refuel its drive after a roller-coaster ride in the world's largest auto market in the past two years.

Once one of the fastest-growing premium brands in the country, Infiniti saw its China growth rate in 2015 reach 34 percent year-on-year. The boom was short-lived, however, and growth plunged to just 3.4 percent last year.

A combination of factors were blamed for the lackluster performance, including the sudden resignation of its former China leader in early 2016 and the downward market pressure that confronted all players in the market.

Yet Infiniti decided to make the most of the drop by taking a pragmatic approach to overhauling its business in the country.

Infiniti President Roland Krueger said the new China management team took deliberate steps to strengthen local dealers' profitability and added new models, including the QX30 and Q60, into its lineup.

Those efforts are starting to show signs of paying off. Infiniti sold 10,041 cars in the first quarter this year, its best quarter in the country, up 4.5 percent from the same period last year. Sales in March reached 4,050 units, up 6 percent year-on-year.

And expected to drive the efforts even further is the new brand image introduced earlier last month in China to express its global brand positioning of "Empower the Drive", launched worldwide in 2016.

"'Empower the Drive' is the center of everything we do. Our vision is to be a forward-looking and daring challenger brand," Krueger said.

"We are now in a very, very good position with the dealers' partnership strengthened, with a new brand (image) launched, with news cars launched, and we are in a very solid position to grow further."

Krueger said Infiniti challenges itself to move forward, as shown in some of its latest technologies including Direct Active Steering, which is already available in some of its cars sold in China, and the VC-Turbo engine it showcased at the Shanghai auto show late last month.

This engine is the first in the industry to be able to optimize performance through modulating the compression ratio.

"This engine can adjust the height of the piston stroke and – for the first time ever – change the compression of the engine seamlessly. It gives drivers the performance when they want it, combined with the efficiency they need," said Krueger in his speech at the show.

Looking ahead, Krueger is confident in Infiniti's performance in China.

"Humbly speaking, we are still smaller than the big premium plates but that is the challenge and also the opportunity we are going to take.

"I always say healthy competition makes you stronger and we look at every competition as opportunity to grow."

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