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Infiniti’s launch circus

Unique proposition: The FX luxury SUV is expected to be the volume-selling model for Infiniti Australia from launch.

Luxury car debutante Infiniti puts itself on show in search of sales leads

Infiniti logo19 Jul 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

INFINITI is holding between 3000 and 4000 expressions of interest from prospective customers ahead of the first serious assault by Nissan’s luxury brand on the Australian market from late next month, despite a low profile in this country to date.

The fledgling importer is hoping to reach thousands more over the next 12 months through sponsorship of the Australian tour of Cirque de Soleil’s new show, Ovo, which has just made its international debut in Brisbane.

The company says up to 900,000 Australians are expected to attend the circus in its 300 Australian shows that wind up in Perth in the middle of next year.

The first shipment of dealer demonstrators and press vehicles arrive in Australia this week, ahead of the late August sales launch.

One of the first two models to go on sale next month through Infiniti’s initial three-dealer network on the east coast, the FX large SUV, will be displayed at the circus in a giant cracked egg – in keeping with the show’s egg theme (ovo means egg) and Infiniti’s “birth” in Australia.

Infiniti will also offer a trip to Las Vegas in a competition as part of the circus sponsorship to extend its direct-marketing reach.

 center imageFrom top: Infiniti general manager Kevin Snell Infiniti M35h Etherea concept.

Cirque de Soleil is one of two Infiniti global sponsorships, with the other being the Red Bull Formula One racing team that uses engines from Nissan partner Renault.

Infiniti Car Australia general manager Kevin Snell said many of the prospects asking for information on the Infiniti range were fans of F1 and Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber.

“Most of our early prospects are people who travel, mainly in the United States or China, and people who follow F1,” he said.

The travelers were aware of Infiniti’s range of luxury vehicles, only one of which – the Q45 large sedan – has been sold in Australia in a previous toe-in-the-water exercise by Nissan Australia in the 1990s.

Mr Snell said he expected early adopters of the FX SUV to be skewed towards the V8-powered hero of the range, the $114,900 FX50 S Premium.

He said sales of that variant could be as high as 25 per cent when the car goes on sale at the end of August, but gradually fall back to about 10 to 15 per cent over time.

“The V8 mix should be strong to start, and then we see the diesel mix increasing over the next five years,” he said.

However, Mr Snell said he did not believe the diesel share would reach the same levels as Europe, where it comprised 75 per cent of sales.

Mr Snell said the other model in showrooms on debut, the mid-sized M sedan, would probably be dominated equally by the two V6 models – the 3.7-litre petrol M37 and 3.0-litre M30d diesel.

He said these would probably score about 45 per cent of sales each, with the remaining 10 per cent going to the hybrid M35h.

Mr Snell said Infiniti had no large sales targets for Australia this year, instead aiming to establish the brand and win friends in the market.

“For us, it is not about volume this year,” he said. “We want to provide an alternative and we want to do it well.” Infiniti already has a range of vehicles lined up for Australian launch in future.

First up will be coupe and cabrio versions of Infiniti G – a BMW 3 Series competitor – in December.

An all-new Infiniti sedan is due late next year, just as Infiniti is set to introduce new four-cylinder engines supplied by Mercedes-Benz under a technology exchange deal between Renault-Nissan and Daimler.

This arrangement will bear further fruit in 2014 when a new small car built on Mercedes’ MFA modular platform is due to go into production at the Austrian factory of contract manufacturer Magna Steyr.

This car is expected to be a modified version of the Infiniti Etherea concept shown last year at the Geneva motor show.

Also in 2014, Infiniti’s first all-electric small car is due, sitting on a stretched version of Nissan’s Leaf platform and using a modified Leaf drivetrain with advances in both power and range.

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