Infiniti says becoming a leader in vehicle quality is fundamental to the brand’s goal of tripling global sales within five years and establishing itself as a serious player in the luxury market.
Automotive News reports the directive comes from the very top, with the CEO of Infiniti’s parent company Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, demanding the Japan-based luxury division design and build products to a standard unrivalled by its peers.
Infiniti president Johan de Nysschen said the brand planned to “disturb the status quo in the premium segment” in the coming years as it pushes into new vehicle segments, aims for solid profits and works to improve its quality ratings.
Infiniti senior vice president for quality Shigeaki Kato said a key focus of his team was to lift the brand’s ranking in the annual JD Power and Associates US Initial Quality Study – a leading industry survey that measures owners’ perceptions of new-vehicle quality after 90 days of ownership.
The company has made steady progress in recent years, rising from ninth to eighth to sixth between 2010 and 2012. Last year’s result saw Infiniti tie with Honda’s luxury division, Acura, placing it ahead of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, but trailing Lexus and Jaguar. The 2013 results will be released next month.
Kato admits, however, that Infiniti has a significant amount of work to do to improve its ranking in JD Power’s US Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures problems experienced by owners of three-year-old vehicles in the past 12 months.
Infiniti slipped from 12th in 2010 to 14th the following year, before plummeting to 27th position last year. While its ranking rose to 20th with the release of the 2013 data earlier this year, it remains below the industry average.
“We are not close to the target we have set,” Kato told Automotive News.
“Lexus is undoubtedly No. 1. What we have been doing in terms of quality improvement has not been satisfactory. We realise we have to make a fundamental change in improvement enhancement.”
Infiniti’s three-pronged effort to improve quality involves extending quality controls beyond the assembly line to import docks and dealerships, creating more ‘Infiniti Certified Plants’ that meet standards on more than 100 assembly line processes, and conducting ‘Infiniti Mind Training’ to instil workers with a sense of pride in the quality of their work and advance their hand-eye coordination and motor skills.