The head of Infiniti in Australia believes that offering a mostly ageing line-up through a small handful of dealers since the brand’s Australian launch in 2012 was a necessary phase before launching a broader spread of all-new models.
Speaking with CarAdvice, Infiniti Australia managing director Jean Philippe-Roux said that the company’s slow-burn start has given it time to build a dealer network and infrastructure, paving the way not only for the Q50 that debuted here in 2014, but also for the new Q30/QX30 twins and the big new Q60 coupe.
Roux’s perspective appears to have outlasted that of his former boss, Johan de Nysschen, who left Infiniti in 2014 to head up Cadillac. Just six months before his exit, de Nysschen told CarAdvice that Infiniti’s sales in Australia were “obviously not sustainable”.
Still, Roux’s view for the Australian market is not out of keeping with the brand’s launch strategy. His predecessor, Kevin Snell, told CarAdvice in 2012 that the first few years would be about establishing the brand and building the customer experience.
The schedule promised in 2012 has stumbled, however, with Snell claiming that by 2015 the company would have “a comprehensive range of new cars across all the segments”.
In fact, the company’s only properly new model on offer by 2015 was the Q50, with the Q30, QX30 and new Q60 not launching until mid and late 2016. The big QX80 touched down locally in 2015, but it first appeared globally in 2010 as the QX56.
Range expansion and sales growth is here now, though – slowly but surely. At the end of November 2016 (December numbers due this week), Infiniti Australia’s market performance showed 747 year-to-date sales, marking a nearly 41 per cent increase on its position at the same point in 2015. And in 2015, Infiniti was one of the top-10 growing brands locally.
“So we’ve been enjoying steady growth of 30-40 per cent every year – pretty exciting times ahead of us. We’re growing on the back of production expansion but also network expansion,” Roux told CarAdvice.
No surprise, he’s keen to talk up the next phase of the company’s local strategy.
“The main thing we need to overcome is brand awareness. Amongst car enthusiasts, yeah that was some awareness on the market – but that’s a tiny portion of who our customers are.
Roux said his team will focus on new campaigns across “a mix of media”, driven by a view that buyers considering the Infiniti brand are looking to pursue their own “story”.
“People are looking for different stories, and I think our design tells a slightly different story on the market and I think people are resonating with that. This is a brand that enables you to stand out from the crowd by driving something different,” he said.
“It’s going to be a long journey and we still have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do. But, I think the potential there is there in terms of telling a different story.”
Dealer network expansion will be another key point for the brand. It launched with three dealers, and now claims seven established locations, including a ‘pop-up’ store on the Gold Coast.
Those, “plus two: a third NSW dealer in Newcastle, and another coming in Doncaster, the second dealer in Melbourne”, will help to put the Infiniti brand in front of more buyers.
The new Q60 coupe launched in Australia in late November, kicking off with the volume-focused 2.0-litre models. The hero 3.0-litre turbo variant will touch down in March, giving the brand a new flagship to lead its marketing.
This year could be the year that Infiniti’s slow-burn start turns up the heat, but time will tell.
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