What do you think of Infiniti? – The cars, the brand and how significant the company will be to you in the future? Chances are, unless you’re based in the U.S, the response to either of these questions will be a dismissive shrug of the shoulders.
That’s the unfortunate problem in which Infiniti currently finds itself, even though Infiniti has been selling cars here in Europe since 2008 – the brand is defined by its US customer base who exhibit very different tastes to those of us in Europe.
In early-2006 Nissan’s President and CEO, Carlos Ghosn announced that Infiniti’s distinctive performance and luxury vehicles would be coming to Western Europe. But Two years later the global economic downturn hit and Infiniti’s big market launch was put on hold, with Ghosn’s plan to take on BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar becoming little more than a pipe dream.
Infiniti Centre Reading opened its doors in 2009, with the plan to increase the company’s UK footprint to include twelve centres by 2011. Instead, the brand has grown to include just ‘seven’ dealers, with the latest – Infiniti Centre Hull – opening last week.
So you’ll appreciate the significance of Infiniti’s new flag-bearer, the 414bhp 5.0-litre FX Vettel Edition, which began production in Tochigi, Japan last month.
The FX Vettel Edition is a unique collaboration between Sebastian Vettel and Infiniti’s Chief Creative Officer, Shiro Nakamura, and has just begun a Tour of the UK, where Infiniti hope to use the model to attract visitors to its official Infiniti Centres.
At a list price of £100,800, Infiniti are unlikely to discover any new customers for the car, but the curiosity of seeing Sebastian Vettel’s handiwork should be enough to draw people into the brand’s sumptuous new showrooms.
SkiddMark will be joining the tour later this week, travelling to one of the many after-parties in the latest FX30dS.
You can follow our journey via @InfinitiGB on Twitter and the Infiniti GB and Infiniti Europe Facebook pages and will be asking for your suggestions of interesting detours on our way from London to Manchester on Thursday 15th November.
During the journey we’ll be tweeting pictures and answering any questions about Infiniti, the roads you’d like us to travel on and of course whether we’ll make it to the FX Vettel After Party before all the food is gone.
|1||8th November||Hull (opening ceremony)|
|7||1st/2nd December (tbc)||London|
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To Infiniti and beyond..
Even though Infiniti might seem ‘new’ to us, the company actually launched in the US in 1989 – the same year as its arch-rival, Lexus. Ghosn is aware of the progress made by his rivals, but remains determined to see Infiniti achieve its full potential.
The company’s Power 88 plan includes a disproportionate contribution from Infiniti – whereas the group aims to achieve “..a global market share of 8% and increase our corporate operating profit margin to a sustainable 8%”, the Infiniti brand is being held to achieving a 10% market share of the global luxury car market by 2016.
That’s one hell of a growth curve, representing around 100,000 cars at current volumes, and will see the number of Infiniti Centres in the UK grow from 7 to around 40 by 2016.
To achieve this, Infiniti will need to establish a few ‘halo models’ that generate discussion about its range of products and establish its peer-level among the other premium car makers.
Ghosn plans to eliminate product overlaps between his brands and widen the portfolio of Infiniti products on offer. In fact Infiniti is to become a leader among its luxury peers, leveraging its partnership with Mercedes-Benz for the supply of engines – especially diesel engines and the latest hybrid power train technologies.