At the long-awaited launch for the four Infiniti models that Nissan’s premium sub-brand intends to sell in the UK, straight-talking MD Jim Wright dryly observed that he “could have chosen a better week” for his important event.
The truth is he probably couldn’t have done; the whole thing is a result of several years of careful planning, and these dates were set in stone many months ago. But the comment carries an inference that occurs to most people in a market like this: can Infiniti make it? We’ve already seen Lexus take well over a decade to secure a decent foothold in Europe. Yet I’ve a feeling Infiniti will make it and I’ve got three reasons.
First, Infiniti is not starting from scratch. The products are mature and are mostly in their second generation. There’s already a thriving 150,000-a-year business in the USA. The cars have well-proven levels of quality and reliability.
Second, the whole thing is based on offering unprecedented levels of customer service, the one advantage (besides irresistible styling) which can reliably get under a buyer’s guard.
Finally – and most importantly - the targets are realistic. A marque that has gone from zero to 10,000 sales in Russia in only two years, is predicting 25,000 sales in Western Europe in five years. That looks prudent and conservative.
However, the biggest reason I’ve got for predicting ultimate success for Infiniti is the quality of the cars. Lexus models were always admired for their quality and luxury, but no-one considered them as good driving propositions.
I can report that Infiniti’s range has far more emotional content, they’re instantly enjoyable to be in. The sportiest of them all, the G37S coupe, isn’t so far short of the BMW 330i coupe that Infiniti’s marketeers want us to compare it to. Good looks, lots of performance and lots of equipment – a decent proposition to base a brand on.
This is not to say Infiniti dealers are going to have an easy time of it. They will have to battle to get noticed, and fight even harder to move metal in this slowing market. But if they can get people to experience the cars, my feeling is that they will sell themselves.