Infiniti will become the second Japanese luxury brand in the Australian new-car market in late August when it launches with two models: the FX SUV and M sedan.
The Infiniti FX (below) will be a rival large luxury SUVs including the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes ML and Lexus RX while the M sedan will compete against the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Infiniti has this week announced pricing and specifications for the two models as it seeks to turn “thousands of leads” into firm orders ahead of the brand’s launch.
The Infiniti FX will cost from $83,900 and the Infiniti M from $85,900. The SUV is priced sharply against its rivals, while the entry-level M is pitched slightly higher but both models are comprehensively equipped with standard features.
Infiniti Australia is not revealing its sales aspirations for the market but the company’s general manager, Kevin Snell, said its long-term ambition is to bypass Lexus as the leading Japanese challenge to the established German luxury brands.
“Our take on the middle- and long-term goal is that Infiniti wants to be serious global luxury brand and our target by 2016 is to sell more than 500,000 cars, which by today’s market is about 10 per cent share of luxury,” said Snell.
“We want to do that by getting into about 70 markets globally rather than 40 today and having more than 10 models rather than the 7 or 8 we have globally today.
“By getting a small hatchback, four-cylinder turbo petrol and diesel engines, and expanding our portfolio of crossovers.
“That’s where the business wants to be on a global level.
“Locally we want to be the No.1 alternative to the established European brands. How long that takes in the Australian market is a long-term objective.
“The first two or three years is around establishing the brand, building the customer experience, and get that right and by 2015 we’ll have a comprehensive range of new cars across all the segments.”
Infiniti will have only three dealerships initially - in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. The brand is looking to set up in Perth and Adelaide in 2013 before expanding its number of dealers in Australia's two most populous cities.
The FX will be Infiniti’s dominant model locally according to the company, with a rival for the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class – the G-series sedan – to become the second volume model from late 2013.
A hatchback based on the small-car platform Mercedes created for the likes of the all-new A-Class and to be built by Austrian automotive specialist Magna Steyr will emerge in 2014, with a range of crossovers to follow.
Infiniti says its extensive research reveals it can appeal to a generally younger customer base than Audi, BMW or Mercedes, with buyers in their 40s on average rather than the 50s or 60s associated with the German brands.
“In our research,” said Snell, “the younger, more progressive customers were telling us the existing brands, or some of them, don’t refelect their values – they feel like they’re values of an older generation, their parents’ generation, a much more conservative traditional set of values, rather than a modern, independent, progressive brand.
“Our brand being new, without a long heritage and being focused on the future rather than the past, is actually our strength not a weakness.
“Customers want a brand that engages them, so we will position ourselves as a modern, progressive challenger brand not a traditional conservative brand.
“The Infiniti models] are driver’s cars, they are performance cars. And they deliver bold design.”