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Exclusive: Infiniti to focus on core segments
Infiniti to focus on core, not niche segments for now, according to local MD
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7 Jun 2016
INFINITI’S model-range expansion kicks off in the second half of the year and there is more new metal on the way, but the Japanese premium brand is unlikely to follow its German rivals into niche segments.
Speaking exclusively with GoAuto, Infiniti Cars Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux said the car-maker was not focused on seeking out niche segments in the way that Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have done, but would instead concentrate on launching models in well-established and higher-volume vehicle classes.
“We need to find segments that make sense for us in terms of brand representation,” he said.
“We have a large sedan – Q70 – and it is extremely important for a premium brand to have a large sedan. With Q60 we think we will have a hero product that will tell more about the brand in terms of very aspirational products.”
Mr Roux detailed Infiniti’s current line-up and the models that will launch this year before stating that the car-maker was “covering most of the important segments that currently we should be in”.
He added that he was not concerned with filling gaps in the line-up, nor was he “desperate” to fill a particular segment, but added that once the company is happy with its product offering it could then look to more segments.
“If we do the basics right, if we launch our products correctly – and there is no magic trick about doing the basics right – that will enable us to go to the next level,” he said.
“It’s more (along the lines of): we get fresh, strong products coming through – probably the best Infiniti products ever – a big step up in terms of quality, let’s launch those products correctly and then we will be unlocking the next level.”
The Nissan-owned car-maker’s burgeoning line-up is about to get another boost with the arrival of the Q30 and QX30 crossover hatch twins early in the third quarter, ahead of the show-stopping Q60 coupe in the final quarter of the year.
Earlier this year Infiniti introduced a mid-life update for the ageing Q70 flagship sedan, which has given it a slight lift in sales, albeit off a low base, while a more performance-oriented version of the car-maker’s best-selling Q50 mid-size sedan will hit showrooms in September or October.
The spicier Q50 variants will be part of a model-range refresh and will usher in a new 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine that will be offered in two states of tune – 224kW/400Nm and the more potent 298kW/475Nm.
“This type of engine will resonate particularly well with Australian customers,” Mr Roux said.
“We are lucky enough to be in a country that loves high-performance vehicles, so I am reasonably optimistic in the fact that the Q50 high-performance engine will be a good proposal for the market and will help us in terms of lifting the brand.”
Mr Roux said he was not necessarily disappointed with Infiniti’s decision to not pursue the wild BMW M3-baiting 420kW Q50 Eau Rouge performance sedan, but was quiet when asked whether hybrid power could form part of the brand’s performance-car strategy, only saying: “Hybrid, moving forward, will be an increasing focus for the brand.”
He added that a number of alternatives were being considered for future Infiniti powertrains, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric vehicles given the expertise of the parent company in the area of green technologies.
“The group beyond Renault-Nissan is one of the leaders when it comes to electric vehicles and I think Mr Ghosn (Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn) made it very clear that electric was a priority for mainstream or even low-cost brands. So currently we are looking again at all options in terms of energy but I can’t comment on what could be coming or not.”
Infiniti previewed its all-electric LE concept at the 2012 New York motor show, but despite persistent rumours, a production model has not been forthcoming.
Mr Roux was coy when asked about other potential future product, including a full-size sedan based on the striking Q80 Inspiration concept from the 2014 Paris motor show, although he said that Infiniti was “considering that”.
He was not forthcoming with more details on the production version of the QX Sport Inspiration SUV concept from the recent Beijing motor show, but the car-maker said in the release accompanying the images in April that it would likely form the basis of a mid-size SUV – potentially a replacement for the ageing QX50 crossover that is not sold in Australia.
While Infiniti exterior design has been garnering praise in recent years, the interior design of some of its existing models has been criticised for not being premium enough, but Mr Roux said the upcoming models will showcase a new level of focus for cabin quality.
“If we want to be performing at the premium end of the market, that needs to be translated in terms of quality of finish and quality of interior. The Q50 was again a major step up, the Q70 (released) in January, although it is small volume, is another step up and I am quite confident you will be very impressed by the new products down the line,” he said.
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