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Infiniti aims for 10pc of luxury markets by 2020

Nissan premium line bids to be known for quality, not quantity in mainland and HK

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 3:34am

To most car owners, Infiniti has little brand pulling power. But Nissan's luxury line - which set up its global head office in Hong Kong last year - says the brand will be better known than Audi and BMW in a decade.

Johan De Nysschen, who became the brand's president in July, said Infiniti did not intend to sell as many cars as its German rivals but would focus on getting to the top.

"When you are in the luxury car business, if you focus on sales volume, you really approach the business from the wrong end of the equation," De Nysschen said. "[BMW and Audi] became so successful that they almost begin to undermine the original notion of a premium prestigious aspirational brand."

Last year, the three biggest premium carmakers in China entered a price war in a bid to boost sales and clear stocks in the world's biggest market. Mercedes-Benz reported 1.5 per cent growth last year while Audi and BMW saw sales jump 30 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.

But Infiniti, which will begin production on the mainland next year, said it would not opt for quantity despite a plan to gain 10 per cent of both the Hong Kong and mainland premium car markets by 2020.

"We have no intention to sell as many cars as they do. We have every intention to make better products so in the long run we will have more premium pricing power and prestige," De Nysschen said. "There are watches more expensive than Rolex even though they sell fewer."

The company's new plant in Hubei will start with an annual production volume of 30,000 units, which could be expanded to 100,000 units - fewer than a third of what Audi and BMW sells in a year.

The Japanese brand, which has long focused on the US market, said they were remodelling themselves as an "Asian brand with global aspirations".

The US will remain Infiniti's leading market by the end of this decade, De Nysschen said. But China would catch up fast and was expected to make up 35 per cent of the company's revenue by 2020.

Being a latecomer to the mainland market, Infiniti is set to launch four products over the next four years. The first batch - which included the Q50 sports car - was displayed at last month's Shanghai Auto Show.

But it is the compact SUV which the new Infiniti chief hopes to become the company's next growth vehicle.

"Before [mainland young car buyers'] incomes allow them to truly indulge, they nevertheless want to have access to these premium brands, and all the manufacturers are responding by positioning their premium automobile in a more compact package, so you have a lower entry point," De Nysschen said.

While the Q50 line will not arrive in Hong Kong until early next year, Infiniti is slowly beefing up its presence here, sponsoring the Rugby Sevens and running publicity campaigns. The Red Bull Formula One racing team will also name its fleet after the Infiniti this year.

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