Infiniti tailoring model to meet local demand
Updated: 2011-11-24 08:01
By Xu Xiao (China Daily)
Senior Infiniti executives at the Guangzho auto show. The luxury brand made by Nissan plans to almost double sales in China this year. Provided to China Daily
GUANGZHOU - Joining the list of famed carmakers offering tailored products to Chinese consumers, Infiniti will introduce a long-wheelbase hybrid M series model next spring, said Toru Saito, vice-president of Infiniti, at the ongoing 2011 Guangzhou auto show.
As part of the executive sedan segment, the M series priced between 498,000 yuan and 658,000 yuan competes directly with the Audi A6, BMW 5 and Benz E-class, which all have stretch versions.
Chinese consumers have a strong preference for a roomy interior, so a number of carmakers have rolled out models to meet the demand.
Infiniti now has a complete portfolio on offer in China, including its crossover EX series, SUV FX series, the G sporty luxury sedans, full-size SUV QX 56 and the M series, Saito said.
However, despite media speculation, production by Infiniti in China "is not on the agenda", said Saito.
China is now Infiniti's second-largest market after only the US. The brand plans to sell 20,000 vehicles by the end of the year, almost doubling the 11,000 it sold in 2010.
It is also expanding dealerships in the country. In 2010, Infiniti only had 25 dealers nationwide, but the number is expected to reach 50 by the end of this year, said Allen Lu, head of Infiniti's Chinese operation.
"We came to China late so we have to run faster," said Lu during an interview in July.
Infiniti's parent Nissan Motor Co announced on Nov 1 that it will build Infiniti's global headquarters in Hong Kong, with operations to start next April.
The move is important to achieving Infiniti's global sales goal of 500,000 units, said Lu. He said the move shows emphasis on emerging Asian markets where demand for luxury vehicles is strong.
Saito said the Hong Kong headquarters will focus on communications, marketing and sales, while design and manufacturing centers will remain in Japan.
Major decisions will be directly made by the Hong Kong headquarters, Saito added.
China's luxury auto market has surged 30 percent from a year ago despite a slowdown in the overall market. Some 800,000 luxury cars are likely to be sold in the country by the end of 2011.
Saito said he expects that luxury auto sales in China will surpass 900,000 vehicles in 2012 with a growth of 20 percent or more.
"Infiniti has stepped into its fastest growing period ever in the Chinese market," said Allen Lu.
He said the country is likely to become Infiniti's biggest market in five to 10 years.
(China Daily 11/24/2011 page18)