Nissan's luxury arm, Infiniti, has been confirmed for an Australian launch in August-September 2012. The Japanese brand with the moto "Inspired Performance" is set to take on the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.
Speaking to the media for the first time today, Infiniti Cars Australia General Manager, Kevin Snell, confirmed the brand's arrival late next year. Infiniti will launch with four models and focus primarily on the east coast of Australia for the first 12-18 months of operations.
The Infiniti M, G Line (Coupe and Convertible) and FX will showcase the brand at its Australian launch with other models including the new Infiniti G Sedan to follow within two years.
Infiniti as a brand came about in 1989 with its introduction to the US market. Since then it has reinvented itself into a sporty and modern luxury marque with sales in the US market growing by 27.5 percent in 2010.
Those old enough to remember will know that Infiniti was briefly introduced to the Australian market back in 1991 (with the Q45) but disappeared shortly after.
When asked about the brand's likelihood of success this time around, Mr Snell was adamant that a great deal has changed with not only Infiniti but the Australian market as well.
The 2012 relaunch comes at a time when Infiniti is outselling Audi in the United States and rapidly expanding its market share in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It's currently the fastest growing luxury brand worldwide and has its sights set on expansion.
The Japanese-built luxury brand will be in 40 countries before the end of this year (interestingly, that doesn't include Japan) with an aim to sell 165,000 cars globally this year.
Its Australian operations will make great use of Nissan's backend network (e.g. logistics) but the two brands will be managed separately with Infiniti existing as an independent division of Nissan Australia.
Mr Snell, who previously had the task of introducing SAAB into the Chinese market, has come up with a phased plan for the brand's introduction to Australia.
Starting around August-September next year, Infiniti will launch three premium stand-alone dealerships in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. It will concentrate heavily on brand building and the customer experience to build up its reputation among luxury car buyers. By 2014-15 it will begin an expansion program that will include Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.
Infiniti's branding practice will see Infiniti dealerships differentiate themselves from the likes of Lexus by having a luxury but less formal approach. Mr Snell referred to the theme as being based on a boutique hotel with a modern edgy Japanese luxury feel.
The hero car of the range will be the Infiniti FX SUV, which is expected to be available with 5.0-litre V8, 3.7-litre V6 and a 3.0-litre diesel engines from launch. The FX will showcase the brand's uncompromising attitude to luxury vehicles. Infiniti aims to differentiate itself by not being all things to all people, but everything to some people.
The G Coupe and G Convertible will also be available from launch with a 3.7-litre V6. The two models will serve to further establish Infiniti's brand status in the Aussie market. The current G sedan will not be launched given that it's towards the end of its lifecycle. Instead, Infiniti Australia will wait for the new-generation G sedan which will hit the market by 2014-15.
To finish the range is the M sedan which will go head to head with the likes of BMW's 5 Series and Lexus LS range. Currently there are seven models in the global Infiniti line-up with two others (including a full-electric) already in the pipeline.
Mr Snell was quick to point out that Infiniti will not launch to be "Australia's cheapest luxury car brand" and that it would go head to head with other established luxury brands to win market share based on its uniqueness and bold styling.
Existing Nissan dealers are said to have been given no preferential treatment in establishing Infiniti dealerships and the luxury brand will make no mention of its association with Nissan in its marketing material to customers.
Buyers are expected to be younger than average (30-40) and looking for something different.
Infiniti's brand association with the Formula 1 championship-winning Red Bull team (through sister brand Renault) is also set to play a part in the company's marketing strategy with both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel driving Infiniti vehicles as company cars.
Mr Snell told CarAdvice that Infiniti vehicles will come standard with a great deal of luxury and technological features to help build the brand's reputation and not burden potential customers with enormous option lists seen on some European marques.
Infiniti Australia will base its suspension settings and specification levels on the UK market but may make minor adjustments unique to our market.
An Infiniti version of Nissan's legendary GT-R doesn't appear to be on the cards (at least officially) but CarAdvice suspects Infiniti will launch a 'supercar' to rival the likes of Lexus' LFA in the not too distant future.
Expect to read and see a lot more about Infiniti vehicles on CarAdvice over the next year and a half leading up to the brand's official unveiling.