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Infiniti aims for quality, not quantity

Power of three: Infiniti will launch in Australia in August with only three dealers nationwide, offering product such as the FX SUV (left).

Just three small but perfectly formed dealerships to kick off Infiniti luxury brand

Infiniti logo5 Mar 2012


NISSAN prestige brand Infiniti will launch in Australia in August with just three dealerships – one in each of the three east-coast capitals, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Perth and Adelaide will follow within one to two years, with other additional points being established as the model range expands from the initial three premium models – the large luxury FX SUV, mid-sized G series in cabrio and coupe forms, and a BMW 5 Series competitor, the M series.

Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell – who had stints at Ford Australia and Saab before being recruited to head up the small team of 11 tasked with initiating Infiniti’s second foray into Australia – said the small number of dealers reflected the company’s desire for quality, not quantity.

“We want our customer support to be at the highest level, so we looked for the best possible partners we could find,” he said.

Mr Snell said the biggest cost to dealers of a new outlet was real estate in prime areas, so the Infiniti retail model was for smaller, boutique dealerships with the emphasis on quality and customer experience rather than massive scale and lots of cars.

 center imageLeft: Infiniti G coupe and sedan. Below: Infiniti M.

“We want our dealers to be profitable soon rather than later, so they can put more into customer care,” he said.

The dealerships will be restrained to holding just seven or so vehicles in the main showroom, according to strict rules of design and quality laid down by Infiniti in Japan.

The showroom rules include a separate reception area where customers are greeted, leading onto a central path down the middle of the showroom with cars displayed on each side in a spacious manner.

A widescreen TV for interactive display of models, so customers can be shown various paint, trim, wheel and accessory combinations, will be central to the dealerships.

Mr Snell said all three dealerships in the initial network would be located in prime, central areas of their cities.

He said the dealers and sites had been chosen, and all successful candidates had a proven track record in prestige car sales. Not all had Nissan franchises.

Preparation for the August kick-off is underway, with applications for various permits and other processes in train.

Infiniti Cars Australia showed Australian motoring journalists a British dealership in Reading, south-west of London, which it says will be the kind of facility it has in mind for Australia.

Among the showroom design features is etched glass across the front wall of the showroom, effectively obscuring the view from the outside – contrary to decades of usual practice in car retailing.

Mr Snell said the opaque look – “seductive transparency” – was designed to draw people in.

He said the look of the dealership interior could be described as modern Japanese, with restrained, elegant features, including light-coloured timber.

The UK has just six dealerships that cover their huge prime market areas (PMAs) by sending representatives up to 150km to pick-up and return cars for service.

They will even travel to any customer who has car problems, giving them a loan vehicle on the spot to ensure they are not inconvenienced, even if the car that has broken down is not their Infiniti.

The Reading dealership even has a delivery room, where customers receive their cars after they are revealed, motor show style, from under a purple satin sheet before getting up to two hours of operating instruction and driving their car away.

Mr Snell said that ultimately further dealers would be appointed in the big Australian cities, but the main focus was on getting the process right within the initial small network.

He said the Infiniti network would be run separately from the Nissan network because “we are looking for a completely different experience”.

He said Nissan dealers had been welcome to apply for the franchises, but the prime requisite for each appointee had been their luxury brand success.

Mr Snell said the cars and dealerships had all been designed for a “younger and edgier” clientele than other luxury marques, mainly in the 35-45 age bracket.

Infiniti – Nissan’s answer to Toyota’s Lexus – was introduced briefly to Australia in 1993 via the Q45 full-size luxury sedan.

While the car was later withdrawn from the Australian market, along with the Infiniti nameplate, the brand has continued in the US and a small number of other markets (although not Japan).

All Infiniti cars destined for Australian customers will be made in Japan, at the Tochigi plant north of Tokyo.

The left-hand-drive JX SUV that has just gone into production at Nissan’s Smyrna plant, in Tennessee, becomes the first Infiniti model to be built outside Japan. However, it is not slated for Australian customers any time soon.

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