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Q30 is Infiniti’s ‘most important car’

Q factor: The front-drive Q30 will be joined in a few months by an all-wheel-drive version called the QX30, though the front-driver will lead the sales charge.

Infiniti’s first small car launch is crucial to Aussie plans, says boss

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Infiniti logo27 Aug 2016

By TIM ROBSON

IT IS only a couple of years shy of its global thirtieth anniversary, but Infiniti’s fourth year in Australia is shaping up to be one of its most critical, as it works to shed a reputation that it is all but irrelevant in the local market.

Infiniti Cars Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux said he regarded the company’s new Q30 crossover hatch as a sales leader, but not necessarily a company saviour.

“It’s an important milestone car,” he said at the launch of the Q30 in Sydney. “It’s not make or break. Yes, the Q30 is the beginning of a whole suite of new products yes, the Q30 will have a positive affect on brand awareness yes, Q30 will have a positive impact in terms of volume.

“It’s not just a fresh start it’s a milestone on a long journey.” With just a handful of cars in its current fleet, Mr Roux acknowledged the importance of breaking into new categories, especially when the sector in question is in a growth phase.

“The Q30 also gives us a chance to enter a new segment with a new product,” he said. “It’s very much a step up for us.

“From a volume expectation, it’s a very important car. (The forthcoming) Q60 will also be very important from what it says about the brand, what it says about design and performance, but the Q30 is a very important car.” It’s set to sell in the small-SUV segment – as opposed to the small-car category – where it will be pitched against premium protagonists like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Mr Roux said he believed that the Q30 was sufficiently different enough to stand on its own merits, rather than being regarded as simply a Mercedes clone, but acknowledged that customers would more than likely make the connection between the two brands.

“The design work on the Q30, first and foremost, is a clear differentiator to the competition, and a lot of work, a lot of investment has been made on the suspension, handling and driving of the vehicle, so I think those two factors combined will make a compelling case for Q30 against all the other crossovers on the market,” he said.

He refused to discuss what percentage of Mercedes parts went into the Q30.

“Consumers go to websites, they understand that it’s a global world where alliances have been made,” he said. “At the end of the day, the consumers still like to relate to design, still like to relate to driving experience. It’s about enjoying the car.” Mr Roux, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that Infiniti was an irrelevant brand in the Australian market, but acknowledged that there was still work to be done.

“We’re getting there,” he insisted. “Relevance is all relative, because we are extremely relevant to our current customers. Relevance has to be measured on the basis of my set of KPIs, which are about brand awareness and network.

“Are you asking will we be relevant tomorrow because we sell as many cars as Lexus? The answer is no – it’s going to take a bit more time. We are getting relevance with our customers and our dealers, and that’s most important.” Mr Roux refused to define a sales target for the Q30, which shares its platform, dimensions and drivetrains with the Mercedes-Benz GLA – the result of a technology sharing arrangement between Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance that will also see Mercedes-Benz produce a Nissan Navara-based ute.

He said he believed the Q30 would resonate with Australians in terms of design and value.

“It’s an intrinsic value (for Infiniti) to offer a lot of value in the car in equipment,” he said. “Australia is a market with potential in the mid term. Australians love performance cars, Australians like good, well-designed vehicles, and what we are bringing to market will resonate with Australian customers.” Mr Roux says the company was at the point where the work of the last couple of years will bear fruit, and the Q30 was a key marker in the transformation of the business in Australia.

“I’m working on a plan over the next three years on what product is coming, volume expectation and dealer expansion,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to do, it’s a long journey, we know that for a fact, but we think we are doing the basics right in terms of brand awareness, in terms of network and in terms of products.

“We have been very quiet recently. We have been doing the groundwork, building a bit of a network – we are obviously still very far from having a network like some of our competitors – but all this has been working towards the product launches we are having now and that are coming.” Following the Q30 and its QX30 AWD twin will be the updated Q50 sedan later this year and then the new-generation Q60 coupe range.

While it is yet to be announced, a replacement for the ageing QX50 SUV that is not sold in Australia will surface shortly and is unlikely to differ greatly from the QX Sport Inspiration concept from this year’s Beijing motor show.

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