Business / Auto China

Infiniti's interrupted plans back on global track

By Han Tianyang (China Daily) Updated: 2013-02-04 07:59

Infiniti, the luxury car unit of Nissan Motor Co Ltd, plans to regain momentum in the Chinese market after a territorial dispute between China and Japan last year made it a difficult time.

"We can expect to see Infiniti resume its growth trend (in China) this year, probably resulting in double-digit growth," Johan de Nysschen, president of Infiniti Motor Co, said in a recent interview in Beijing.

"Our top priority is to establish China as a second volume hub for the brand," he said. "We cannot be a global player unless we have a strong presence in China."

The majority of Infiniti's global sales are now in the US, its biggest market worldwide and the target market the brand was created for when it was born in the late 1980s.

In 2007 Infiniti started imports to China and reported continuously increasing sales until last year, when deliveries had negative growth.

De Nysschen said the sales decrease was partly the result of Infiniti's refusal to offer massive discounts amid the price war last year in China's premium car market.

As well, in the wake of the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, the company "chose to not to promote the brand in the way we normally do and to delay introduction of important new models which would have supported volume development", he said.

Infiniti now imports its full lineup of four SUVs, two sedans, a convertible and a coupe to China.

Infiniti's interrupted plans back on global track

Its current product portfolio gives Infiniti a presence in more than half of the existing premium segments globally. The company will now "embark on a strong product offensive, entering important new market segments" in the coming years, de Nysschen said.

In the next four years, the company will not only refurbish every single one of its existing models, but will also add "at least four additional product lines, including new engines and new transmissions", he said.

"There will be new sedans, hatchbacks and crossovers below where the current Infiniti range starts and also some sedans, high-performance cars and sports cars above where the lineup stops today," he said.

"With these new models we are investing in now - along with new gasoline engines, diesel engines, hybrids and plug-in hybrids - we will be in almost 90 percent of global premium market segments in the future."

"And all of these products will come to China," he said.

He said the company plans to expand its sales network in the country from the current 60 dealerships to 80 in the mid-term.

In 2014 Infiniti will make a crucial step when it starts making vehicles in China under an agreement inked last May with Dongfeng Motor Corp, the local partner of its parent company Nissan.

The move is designed to boost Infiniti's annual sales in China to 200,000 vehicles by 2017, said the company.

Infiniti is also investing in expanding its manufacturing footprint outside Japan to North America, Europe and South America.

It moved its headquarters from Japan to Hong Kong last year, a "unique location that summarizes our Asian brand character, brings us very close to our priority market China and keeps us linked with other major global markets in North America and Europe", de Nysschen said.

(China Daily 02/04/2013 page18)

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