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How does Infiniti plan to catch up with Mercedes and BMW?

By raccars Published

Infiniti

Infiniti has always lived in the shadow of its premium German rivals, but not for much longer.

Very few new brand names have made a significant splash in the global automotive market over the last few decades - apart from Tesla. Infiniti is Nissan's premium sub-brand, launched in the US 27 years ago and in Europe in 2008. While the Americans have taken to Infiniti, the brand has never managed to shake the premium German brands' dominance of the luxury market: Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

More recently there have been some movements among the brands which are seeing Volvo and Jaguar put the frighteners on their Teutonic counterparts. And Infiniti plans to take the opportunity to nudge its way into the premium mainstream market too.

Infiniti lagging behind in Europe

Currently European and particularly British consumers tend to pass over Infiniti in favour of the better known brands. And the Japanese manufacturer's cause hasn't been helped by a rather pedestrian model line-up. While Lexus was once in a similar position, the Toyota-owned brand carved out its own niche by offering peerless customer service, class-leading reliability and, more recently, bold design choices.

Infiniti's chief execs have been working on a new corporate strategy which acknowledges the firm's earlier lack of direction. The plan is to focus on offering a competitive model line-up. The 2003 FX SUV did build up some momentum but Infiniti failed to run with it, but it learned from this that a consistent portfolio is key.

Powerful elegance

Infiniti's design ethos going forward is to stand for 'powerful elegance', which can already be seen in the rather smart Q60 and upcoming QX50 models. Furthermore, these two models demonstrate a clear and consistent design language in the form of a curved C pillar and double arched front grille, elements which can be repeated throughout the wider product range for a distinctive and instantly recognisable Infiniti 'look'.

The firm is also confident that it can provide sound mechanicals and is working on new engine technology such as an innovative variable compression system. Infiniti has also accepted the scale and importance of the autonomous driving revolution and is using a much-praised direct adaptive steering system in the Q50 although keen drivers are less impressed by the devolution of responsibility!

Help from the Renault Nissan Alliance

As a Nissan-owned brand, Infiniti has access to vast technical resources from the parent company's alliance with French firm Renault, so there shouldn't be any problem with offering hybrid and electric powertrains. Infiniti is also keen to enter the performance arena, as seen by the inclusion of the twin turbo V6 providing 400bhp to the Q50S and Q60S models.

Humancentric

The next step is to improve the firm's customer service reputation, using marketing buzzword 'humancentric' to describe its philosophy. It would help, of course, if Infiniti could more clearly identify its target demographic. Last year global sales rose to over 215,000 models, a record for Infiniti and more than Jaguar.

However it's still quite a way off the target of 500,000 by 2017 set for the brand by Nissan. The US and Chinese markets are clearly in hand but there is still work to be done to convince European buyers. The new Q30 and QX30 models, both made in Nissan's Sunderland plant, are expected to drive growth in Europe while Infiniti is also working on expanding its dealer network.

The company is banking on these new models to generate brand awareness and believes that if it can increase its road presence as a result, organic growth will follow.

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