News - Infiniti
Infiniti Australia on track: Lester
Slowing sales not a concern for Infiniti Australia as vital QX50 waits in the wings
6 Nov 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
NISSAN Australia managing director Stephen Lester says he is happy with the progress of the Japanese manufacturer’s Infiniti premium brand, despite clocking just 554 sales to the end of October and hovering near the bottom of Australia’s new-vehicle sales charts.
The company will also have to wait a little longer for the model that is expected to become its best seller, with the QX50 mid-size SUV now pushed out to mid-2019.
Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, Mr Lester said Infiniti is facing slow sales due to the resizing of the dealer network, which saw the closure of a Sydney CBD showroom in April.
“I am well and truly impressed by its performance this year, to be honest,” he said. “QX80 is going along quite well, Q50 and Q60 I would say are holding their own against our expectations but of course there is more room to grow.
“The reality is that we saw a resizing of the network which was the right thing to do … we are in a position now where we are achieving increased sales growth across the range very consistently in a very healthy manner with a highly engaged group of dealers.
“What we don’t need is very clear. We don’t need 50 dealers in Australia selling one or two cars a month. We need a handful of very, very strong dealers and we’re in the process of growing that up, and we need Infiniti to really mean something.”
With just eight showrooms in total around the country, as well as three service centres, Infiniti sales are down 17.9 per cent to the end of October this year.
Shouldering the lion’s share of sales is the Q50 medium sedan, which is up 8.4 per cent this year to 193 units, on the back of an updated range introduced in August.
The Q30 small hatch and its QX30 crossover twin account for 153 sales, down 22.3 per cent, while the QX80 SUV and Q60 coupe are up 17.2 and 35.7 per cent respectively to 75 and 76 units.
Meanwhile, the ageing QX70 SUV has dropped 69.3 per cent to 50 sales, while the Q70 large sedan brings up the rear of the Infiniti range on seven units, down 58.8 per cent.
The upcoming QX50 – revealed at the 2017 Los Angeles motor show – was earmarked for a late-2018 launch but has now been pushed back to the middle of 2019.
It is expected to significantly bolster Infiniti’s bottom line by giving it a competitor in the booming premium mid-size SUV segment.
Competing against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, the QX50 could be Infiniti’s best shot at cracking the mainstream as luxury mid-size SUV sales swell 10.2 per cent this year to 27,996 units – a segment that is currently outpacing the once-dominant sub-$60,000 mid-size passenger car market.
Mr Lester said the QX50 is expected to have a positive reception in Australia, mirroring its success overseas, and added that the new model will shoot to the top of Infiniti’s sales charts.
Asked whether he expected it to be the brand’s top-selling model, Mr Lester said: “I don’t see a reason why it won’t be … it’s also got the advantage that it speaks to the broadest part of the segment as well.
“That car will do – as it is doing in many markets around the world – very, very well here, so we need to get it here as quickly as possible because – it’s no different to the Nissan brand – we’re just not playing in certain segments that really matter.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how critical that segment will be to the luxury market overall.”
Looking ahead, Mr Lester said the Australian division will work on bringing in electrified powertrains in line with Infiniti’s global ambitions to have new engine technology make up 50 per cent of total sales.
“We will continue to cautiously and slowly expand that with the ambitions of the Infiniti brand globally … to deliver full electrification across the range in the mid-term,” he said.
“I think that proposition will lend itself very, very well here in Australian because this will be a market where electrification is relatively easy to adopt.
“Certainly Infiniti is in a turnaround phase, we do have some aggressive ambitions, but (Infiniti Australia managing director) Guy Street and the team are handling those well.”
However, Mr Lester warned that Infiniti’s substantial growth will not come in the short term, despite being on the market for nearly six years.
“If you look at some of the success they’ve had in other markets … it took a lot of years to get it there, so it’s not going to be a snap of the fingers and we generate 10,000 sales in the market,” he said.
“We need to focus on the fundamentals, treat customers well, and have good operational dealers who are happy and proud of the brand.”
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