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Infiniti’s future secure in Australia, despite Euro exit

Hanging on: Infiniti remains committed to the Australian market, despite pulling out of the UK – one of its biggest right-hand-drive markets – and losing key models such as the Q30 and its QX30 twin.

UK, Euro exit of Infiniti will see brand focus on US, China markets from 2020

Infiniti logo14 Mar 2019

INFINITI says Australia’s position as part of the Asian region means its operations here will continue, even as the Japanese premium brand pulls out of Western Europe and the United Kingdom.

 

In a statement to GoAuto this week, Infiniti Cars Australia director of corporate communications Karla Leach said there are no plans for the Nissan-owned marque to follow its European and British counterparts by leaving Australia.

 

“Within the Western European context of falling sales and the prospect of increasing investment costs towards future legislation and product complexity, there is no longer a sustainable and viable business case for this region,” Ms Leach said.

 

“So Infiniti is restructuring the brand to focus on its largest growth markets, specifically North America, China and Asia – of which Australia is a part of – while withdrawing from Western Europe.”

 

However, concerns about the long-term viability of the Australian market for Infiniti remain as the withdrawal from the UK takes away one of the largest right-hand-drive markets in the world, and with it the prospect of the continuing viability of engineering future models in RHD.    

 

Infiniti made the shock announcement from its headquarters in Hong Kong this week, revealing its intention to pull out of Western Europe in 2020 and, from July this year, cease production of the slow-selling Q30 small car and its QX30 crossover twin at their sole global production facility in Sunderland, England.

 

The plan outlines Infiniti’s operations “restructure” designed to concentrate in the growth markets of North America and China, as well as in Eastern Europe, the Middle-East and Asia.

 

With just 649 sales last year, Australia is not shaping up as a priority market.

 

Infiniti’s global press release also went on to outline the goals of electrifying the brand’s model range by 2021, the discontinuation of diesel-engined vehicles by that date, the fortification of SUV choices in North America moving forward, the introduction of five new models in China over the next five years and closer “synergies” with its parent Nissan.

 

It is not clear whether the latter is a veiled reference to shutting Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance partner Renault out of Infiniti now that former chairman Carlos Ghosn has been removed from the Japanese company.

 

As a memorandum of understanding confirming each brand’s commitment to the alliance has only just been signed this week by the three companies, the dust is still settling on what will prevail from here on in for Infiniti.

 

The company did add that it is seeking to help affected employees in Western Europe, “consulting with employee representatives where necessary and identifying opportunities for transition and training support where appropriate”.

 

Infiniti launched in Europe during 2008, just as the global financial crisis took hold, and in subsequent years suffered from a lack of suitable models and powertrains, particularly with a reliance on larger, US-focused vehicles and petrol engines.

 

Sales never took off, with just 60,000 sales since then, compared to millions annually for key rivals.

 

Australian registrations have been even more dire since the brand returned to our shores in 2012, with sales tumbling 16.4 per cent last year over 2017’s dismal 776 units. In 2016, Infiniti managed to find 807 buyers of its cars and SUVs, 574 in 2015, 441 in 2014, 304 in 2013 and just 85 in 2012.

 

A handful of Infiniti Q45 full-sized luxury sedans were also sold in Australia through existing Nissan dealers from 1993 to 1996.


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