It's time to rethink everything.
Only a few years ago, Nissan's luxury division, Infiniti, inked a deal with Mercedes-Benz that would see the two brands teaming up for various projects that included platform and engine sharing. One result was the now discontinued Infiniti QX30, which never lived up to its sales expectations during its short production life. Today, Infiniti, like Nissan, is in desperate need of a reboot as one thing has become clear: it's not a "mini-Mercedes" but rather a "Nissan-plus."
Speaking to Automotive News, Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta has confirmed Infiniti will be revitalized as "Nissan-plus, in terms of product and technology." Clearly something had to be done because the QX30 isn't the only model struggling.
Sales of the Infiniti Q50, Q60, and Q70 have also continued to drop and all three may be dropped entirely in the coming years. All could potentially be replaced by a new sedan from a Nissan-sourced platform that would include the e-Power hybrid setup. In other words, a more premium Nissan Altima or Maxima instead of a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class rival. Expect the first new-era Infinitis to arrive no earlier than 2023.
One thing has become very clear: Infiniti will not become a major global luxury player. Back when Carlos Ghosn was CEO of Renault Nissan, he had a goal for Infiniti to account for some ten percent of the annual global luxury vehicle market with upwards of 500,000 sales. The reality has been quite different. Global volume never went higher than 2018's 249,000 sales, and dropped by 24 percent last year. Combined with that trend and the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 is not going to be a good year for Infiniti, to say the least.
However, Nissan isn't ready to toss in the Infiniti towel. One key element Infiniti has identified to improve sales in the all-important US market is to improve dealership relations and add new models.
"There is a fine line between quantity of sales and quality of sales," Gupta said. "Last year, we really choked the dealers. But now we have restarted. We have great products and great dealers and now are connecting both with a sustainable, transparent business scheme."
But there's another area of concern regarding this revival plan. Only a decade or so ago, Infinitis were also largely upgraded Nissans, but the decision was made to go further upmarket. Essentially, Infiniti is going back to a formula that works. It still continues to work well for Honda's Acura brand. Interestingly, Nissan isn't ruling out future deals with Mercedes, and word has it some updates on this topic will be announced later this summer.