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LA show: Topless G brings Infiniti no closer

Finite: Infiniti’s first open-top G-car could eventually come to Australia.

Nissan’s luxury brand is no more likely for Oz, despite debut of G37 convertible

21 Nov 2008

THE global debut of Infiniti’s G37 Convertible at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show has increased the desire of senior Nissan Australia officials to reintroduce the company’s luxury brand Down Under, but prohibitive exchange rates and the increased luxury car tax will continue to keep it away from our shores in the short-term.

Nissan has made no secret of its desire to take its luxury division global in the same way that Toyota has successfully done with its Lexus brand. As we reported last month, however, the current economic and government policy environment is likely to preclude the Infiniti brand’s introduction here for the time being, in the same way Honda has decided not to launch its luxury Acura brand in Australia. GM Holden has also put on hold its plan to launch the Cadillac brand here.

While Acura has never had an Australian presence, Infiniti cars were available here between 1993 and 1997, when slow sales brought about its withdrawal. Previously a US-only brand like Lexus, which is an acronym for “Luxury EXport US”, Infiniti was recently introduced in South Korea and is about to be launched in Russia, Europe and, next year, the UK – its first right-hand drive market.

“It is hard to launch a new brand in Australia,” Nissan Australia marketing chief Ross Booth told GoAuto at last month's Sydney motor show. “It will be interesting to see how Cadillac goes.

“We have no plans (to bring Infiniti here). There is more opportunity from a product perspective, because of right-hand-drive for the UK, but we don’t have any plans.” Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson has not diverged from the company’s official line on Infiniti, but says its introduction here is still a matter of ‘when, not if’ – and he hopes that will occur during his stewardship of the company.

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“For me personally, it’s one of the things I’d like to see done before I leave the market,” he said at this week’s LA show.

“And the timing has been right – if we went back three to six months, the timing was right because, strategically and globally for Nissan, Infiniti is high-priority. It’s one of the key drivers of the global GT 2012 (five-year plan). Everything was aligned, so we really went hard at it.

“(But) honestly, we’ve been thrown a few curve balls with the volatility of the market, the (value of the) Aussie dollar. We’re going to source everything from Japan if we go down the route of Infiniti. So we’re continuing to push forward and try and make the plan work. We haven’t got there yet, but still working very hard.

“For me personally, it is a priority. There’s definitely executive support to the globalisation of Infiniti,” said Mr Thompson, who hopes the G37 Convertible could become a member of the brand’s Australian relaunch range.

The G37 Convertible is a folding hard-top version of the BMW 3 Series Coupe-sized new G37 Coupe. Due on sale in the US in the first quarter of 2009, the first open-top G model to appear from Infiniti will be priced slightly higher than its fixed-roof two-door stablemate.

Interestingly, however, peak power is slightly down versus the coupe – from 245kW to 242kW – while weight is up because of its folding three-piece steel roof. Otherwise, save for its unique Bose Open Air Sound System and adaptive climate-control system, the convertible is identical in specification to the coupe.

“I think there’s a lot more momentum behind the globalization of Infiniti, so it is at the point where, now that Europe is launching Infiniti and we have UK next year launching Infiniti, so we’ve got right-hand (drive production) in the plan – not for us, but in the plan – the planets are aligned if we can make the (business) plan work,” said Mr Thompson.

“But it has to profitable. Every week the currency situation becomes further and further from the point we need it to be, and further complicated… Plus, there’s just been a lot that’s changed in the last three months (with) luxury tax.

“The luxury segment has become a bit muddy, so it’s not very clear to us what the performance of the luxury segments really are at this time. “We know that there was pull-forward (of sales) into June, we know there is an effect of the (increase in) the luxury tax, but we’re going to be very cautious because it does have to be profitable.”

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Infiniti won’t come to Oz

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