Japanese luxury car brand Infiniti is gearing up for its official Australian launch in August with three dealerships positioned in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Infiniti will launch with two models: the Infiniti FX SUV and Infiniti M sedan range with the G coupe and convertible set to land in dealerships around November. The next phase will see the brand open dealerships in Perth and Adelaide before the end of 2013.
In charge of Infiniti Australia is Kevin Snell, who is adamant that the launch process is all about attention to detail and building a brand around the ownership experience. Speaking to CarAdvice in Queenstown, New Zealand, about the brand’s Australian launch, Snell said: “This isn’t a go hard and fast and do as much as we can, as quick as we can, approach… (We want to) focus on three dealers, three sites, nail down on the experience and support those guys.”
Infiniti will spend 2012 and 2013 building its brand and going through the introduction phase before it begins an onslaught with new models and see further expansion into areas like the Gold Coast and additional dealers in Sydney and Melbourne.
The Nissan-owned manufacturer is focusing its marketing strategy on building the Infiniti brand and expects that about 80 percent of sales will come from its FX SUV range, which will become the brand’s halo model as it begins its advertising campaign nationwide.
“We will focus heavily on establishing the brand,” Snell said. “We will communicate what Infiniti stands for, what its values are. FX will play a key role in the physical proof of what our brand stands for. It’s the car that has to deliver on this promise. We are about sporty cars, design, technology… we have to build a halo, a mother brand first.”
Infiniti will challenge the dominating position of the Germans by taking advantage of its relatively young and uncluttered brand image. It aims to build a brand around being unique, different and doing away with the conservative nature that some associate with today’s luxury brands.
“If you’re an established luxury brand, you’ve got 50, 60 or 100 years of history. You’ve got great awareness and you stand for certain values, but as the market evolves and younger luxury buyers come in, as people's view of luxury changes post GFC, and these trends are happening, this 100 years of history is both your strength and weakness. It’s very hard to change people's perception of what you stand for.”
When asked about what buyers would think of the Nissan association and whether that would detract from Infiniti’s luxury status (as it arguably does for Lexus given its Toyota connection), Snell said there would no attempt at hiding it.
“This isn’t a unknown brand which you need to worry about if they are here in the long term or if the support is going to be there. We are part of one of the biggest and profitable auto groups in the world… this should give consumers enormous confidence.”
Over the last 10 years, grey imports of Infiniti vehicles, or Nissans which are sold as Infinitis in some markets, now total anywhere between 4000 to 5000 in Australia. Infiniti’s marketing team is seeing this as a positive, given the lengths some have gone to import their cars.
Infiniti is currently selling eight models globally in 46 markets. The company spent a considerable amount of time conducting local research before deciding to launch in Australia. Although it’s still early days, local reaction has been largely positive with around 800 qualified prospects just out of this year’s Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The biggest challenge for Infiniti remains its brand recognition, which is currently at a mere two percent (aided), a far cry from its German rivals.
CarAdvice is currently in Queenstown driving the Infiniti FX37 and FX50 SUVs and M hybrid sedan. Check back during the week as we bring you detailed reviews.