News - Infiniti
Infiniti’s Melbourne dealer switch hitch
Infiniti and beyond: Nissan has launched its new luxury brand with only two of its intended three retail outlets on the east coast, but could expand to as many as 20 within five years.
National launch for new Infiniti brand hit by late withdrawal of Melbourne retailer
3 September 2012
INFINITI has launched in Australia this week with only two of the three dealers it had appointed to handle the franchise in Australia after the late withdrawal of its selected Melbourne outlet.
The Penfold Group advised Infiniti Australia it would not proceed with its dealer agreement in mid-July – just about six weeks before the luxury brand’s local launch – leaving the Nissan-owned franchise to quickly find a replacement in a key market.
GoAuto understands a new agreement will be signed soon with another retail giant, Preston Motors, which is expected to slot Infiniti into a site at Brighton on Nepean Highway, about 15 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD.
The late switch is expected to leave Infiniti without representation in Melbourne for six to eight weeks.
Infiniti’s appointment of Penfold Motors – which handles Holden, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Audi franchises – was only announced on May 2.
Nissan Australia managing director Bill Peffer and Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell said they could not comment on the reasons for the late change, but told us it had been Penfold’s decision and it had been accepted without rancor.
From top: Infiniti Australia general manager Kevin Snell; Nissan Australia managing director Bill Peffer.
“Penfold advised us in July that they wouldn’t go ahead with representing the brand,” Mr Snell told GoAuto.
“They had some internal changes in their business, so we’re in the process of appointing another partner, who we’ll announce in the next two or three weeks and they’ll be representing us from, at the latest, the first of October.”
Penfold Group managing director Greg Johnstone told GoAuto he did not want to go into details about the split, but said there had been no problem with the Infiniti management or brand expectations.
“They were very good all the way along, but we just decided not to go ahead with it,” said Mr Johnstone.
While the loss of one of only three dealers is a major development on the eve of a national brand launch that has been years in the making is clearly a setback for Infiniti, its executives are taking an optimistic outlook.
Mr Peffer said it was better to happen now than once the brand was established.
“You don’t want it to happen, but it’s not a major development, we have a replacement that’s literally weeks away from being announced,” Mr Peffer told us.
“Yes, it’s an inconvenience, but we have a plan to overcome that inconvenience and I’d rather have this happen now than six or twelve months down the pipe because that would be more damaging in the long term.
“There’s a lot of scrutiny about whether we’re in this for the long haul and we keep reinforcing that yeah, we’re here, we’ve got an investment with not only retailers but a team and products, and we have growth plans that are pretty impressive.
“There’s six to eight weeks delay in the Melbourne market, but in the meantime we’re making sure that cars are getting out and that the enquires we’re getting are being addressed, either through the other two dealers or through our own incubation of that lead until the new dealer is in place.”
Mr Peffer agreed it helped that the dealer shortfall had occurred in Melbourne, where Infiniti is based at Nissan’s national head office in Dandenong.
“It’s in nobody’s interest to have one of your retailers make a decision not to move forward, but the fact that we have an established presence in Melbourne, if it had to happen in one location, sure it helps that we’re there.”
Mr Snell said he could not comment on speculation that Preston Motors had committed to filling the breach until he had an agreement in place, which he expected to be within “a few weeks”.
However, the company is already working with the expected appointee on handling leads generated through the company’s internet site.
“We’re already working with that retailer to establish test drive programs from before the end of September, so enquiry that we get today, we’re able to give the people the information, we’re able to give them the brochures, we’re taking the reservations for test-drive bookings and over the next two or three weeks we’ll organise those test drives through the new partner,” said Mr Snell.
“If someone urgently wants a new car, which we’ve had, because finance is running out or whatever, our Sydney and Brisbane partners are looking after those customers, facilitating test drive and sale, and coming to Melbourne if necessary.
“It will be a few months before there’s a complete, finished showroom location, but it will only be a few weeks before there’s a retail dealer you can talk to and who can arrange a test drive, who can arrange a quote, who can arrange a delivery.”
Mr Snell said the late change was regrettable, but would not be so important in the longer term as the brand expands its local dealer network.
“Of course we’d prefer to not have to change late (but) if you look at it in the long-term perspective, we’re going to set up 15 to 20 dealers over the next five years.
“The intention is to add to the three towards the back end of next year, so our focus for the first 12 months is to establish our presence in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, get our processes right, get our customer experience right, establish the brand, do things properly.”
He confirmed that dealerships in Adelaide and Perth were the next priority and that ultimately he saw the need for three retail outlets in Melbourne and Sydney within three years.