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Nissan looks over the Skyline

On the horizon: Skyline could return to Australia as a Nissan or under a revival of the Infiniti brand.

With an eye on Lexus, Nissan works on a case to bring its luxury sedan to Australia

9 May 2007

NISSAN is working to bring the Skyline back to Australia as a stand-alone large luxury sedan.

The company stopped selling the regular Skyline when it wound up its local manufacturing operations in 1992, but the nameplate has lived on in Japan where the car is available as a large prestige sedan and coupe.

It was also the donor car for the GT-R sportscar, although the forthcoming new-generation GT-R – due to be launched at the Tokyo motor show in October – is an altogether separate model.

While Nissan Australia has its hand up for the GT-R, marketing general manager Ross Booth told GoAuto last week that the company was also investigating the possibility of resurrecting the Skyline.

“I’d love to get it here. It really fits in with the Australian market,” he said. “There has to be a business case, we have to sell the right number.” An important part of the business case will be the asking price, which GoAuto understands would be between $65,000 and $70,000.

Mr Booth said the growth of the luxury market in Australia was promising, but he needed to examine whether Australians would be prepared to pay that kind of money for a car with the Skyline badge.

“There are two things that people associate with Skyline: there is GT-R, and the Skyline that was made in Australia, a very good car but it was a big, boxy, six-cylinder,” he said. “Some people think of the Skyline as a Commodore or Falcon.” Competing against the Honda Legend overseas, the new Skyline is bigger than the Nissan Maxima and is available with either a 165kW 2.5-litre V6 or a 231kW 3.5-litre V6. It is not currently sold outside Japan in right-hand drive. Sedan and coupe versions are sold as the Infiniti G35 in the United States.

If Nissan Australia is given approval from head office in Japan, it is expected to take at least two years before the Skyline comes here.

The Skyline would most likely be sold as a Nissan, but a potential move to establish the luxury Infiniti brand here could see the car sold as an Infiniti.

The Infiniti Q45 was launched in Australia in 1993, and sold through Nissan dealers, but it struggled with a starting price of $140,000. The Australian Infiniti experiment ended in 1997 when the Q45 was dropped, but Infiniti models have since been selling strongly in the US and Mexico.

12 center imageLeft: Infiniti G35 coupe.

Nissan is now looking at expanding the Infiniti brand in countries outside the US and has already moved the luxury nameplate to Russia, the Middle East and South Korea, and is now targeting Eastern Europe and China.

“Infiniti is something we are going to look at this year,” Mr Booth said. “We are having a serious look at whether we can bring it back.” The company will conduct a study looking at the feasibility of bringing Infiniti back as a standalone luxury brand, just like Lexus is a standalone sub-brand of Toyota.

“Infiniti is a totally different brand and offers a totally different customer experience (to Nissan),” Mr Booth said.

The US Infiniti range includes the Skyline-based G V6 sedan and coupe, the large M V8 sedan, the FX AWD crossover and the massive QX SUV.

Mr Booth said such a range would contain more than enough vehicles needed to relaunch the Infiniti brand if Nissan decided to go ahead with the plan.

“Lexus started off here 15 years ago with one or two models, so I would argue there are enough available,” he said, adding that his team would look closely at the Lexus Australia experience (which dates back to 1990 with the LS400). “Lexus is the model that you would have to look at.” Mr Booth also insisted that even if the study proved there was a strong case for relaunching the Infiniti nameplate in Australia, it would take some time for it to happen.

“I can guarantee it won’t be 2008 and I wouldn’t imagine it would be 2009 either,” he said.

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