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Nissan Infiniti to challenge Lexus sales

Infiniti will launch the G Series, a BMW 3-Series sized, in coupe and convertible.

Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson said the premium brand – which arrives here next September – intends to overtake Lexus. “Our ambition in the longer term, you know 2020, clearly is to be well ahead of where Lexus is today,” he told Carsguide. 

Speaking in Japan ahead of the Tokyo international motor show, Thompson, who heads up both Nissan and Infiniti in Australia, says Infiniti will launch with four different vehicles in three series: the BMW 3-Series sized G Series, in coupe and convertible; the Mercedes E-Class sized M Series; and the FX which goes up against the likes of BMW’s X6 and Porsche’s Cayenne. 

Thompson pointed to movements in the luxury car segment in recent years, notably the emergence of Audi against established luxury rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz as evidence of how much the category can change in just a few years. 

“I wouldn’t sit here and pretend to forecast where any of those four brands will be (by 2020) but I can assure you Infiniti will be in a strong position and certainly at least the number one non-European premium brand in Australia.”  

The challenge will no doubt be heeded by Lexus which is in the process of attempting to reinvent its image in Australia with a range of more exciting products, including the forthcoming GS F Sport sedan, which also launches next year.

Like Lexus Infiniti will offer a hybrid drive train on the BMW 5 Series-sized Infiniti M Series at launch. But unlike Lexus Infiniti has the option of introducing diesel models from its European range, something Thomson said was very much on the radar. 

“From a power train perspective we’ll have options across the range ranging from hybrid, diesel or petrol,” says Thompson. He dismisses suggestions that consumers may have bad memories of the Inifiniti brand, which was briefly sold here in the early 1990s via the single model Q45 luxury sedan.

The attempt at the time by Japanese car makers including Toyota (Lexus), Nissan (Infiniti) and Mazda (Eunos) to challenge the German prestige brands was largely unsuccessful, with only Lexus surviving. Infiniti fared better in the USA, though, and its success there eventually led to the brand launching in Europe in 2008 and its planned Australian comeback. 

“For me it’s not really a question of re-establishing. I don’t believe the brand ever was established here. We launched a model for a period of time that was very short lived,” says Thompson. “Our biggest challenge in establishing the brand now is awareness in a very crowded space.

There are 64-odd brands in the market today (and) there’s a fair few premium or quasi-premium brands fighting over a rather small slice of premium or luxury consumers. “We’ve been very particular about who we’ve selected as our partners, our dealers, to make sure that they can deliver that same Infiniti promise and experience.”    

So particular in fact that there will be just three dealerships at launch - one each in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane - none of them established Nissan dealers. Thompson acknowledges the lack of dealership presence other than the east coast capitals is not ideal but is confident the brand will grow to encompass these markets.   

“It’s not our intention to keep the brand within just the three launch cities. We’ll eventually go out to the likes of Perth and northern Queensland and Adelaide but it will take a bit of time and we’ll do it when we believe the brand is starting to establish itself and there is enough scale to warrant going to some of the second-tier markets.”

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