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Japanese carmaker Infiniti confirms commitment to mainland market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 6:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 10:00pm

Japanese luxury carmaker Infiniti has confirmed its commitment and confidence in the mainland China market at the Shanghai Auto Show.

“We have a very good base [in China] now to move forward. We have just launched two new vehicles – the QX30 and Q60 – and they’re just establishing themselves on the market,” said CEO Ronald Krueger.

Infiniti sold about 10,000 vehicles in China in the first three months of 2017, a 4 per cent increase from the same period a year earlier.

The company, headquartered in Hong Kong, saw a 2 per cent drop in mainland sales in the first half of last year. But with full-year sales of 41,500 cars, 2016 was an overall improvement on the previous 12 months.

Krueger blamed the drop during the first six months on accelerated growth in previous years.

Infiniti started local production at its Xiangyang plant in Hubei province at the end of 2014, which accelerated the growth rate from a low base in 2013. Currently both the Q50L saloon and the QX50 crossover SUV models are produced at the Xiangyang plant.

“We are very flexible and can react to market trends very fast,” said Krueger, referring to the production facility. Operated by parent company Nissan with joint venture partner Dongfeng, Infiniti has dedicated lines and personnel.

The factory has introduced Infiniti’s ‘Meister’ concept of master craftsmen – handpicked members of the workforce with high levels of technical expertise – who oversee the production process. It has been very successful in raising quality standards at the Chinese plant, the company says.

In fact, Xiangyang has quickly overtaken some of the company’s other plants in certain areas. “Healthy competition makes us stronger and we utilise this to enhance the whole production network in China,” said Krueger.

Infiniti has just launched the QX30 crossover SUV and Q60 coupe models on the market. On display at the Shanghai Auto Show was the new QX50 Concept making its Asian debut, along with Infiniti’s variable-compression turbo engine, which it claims offers V6 performance from a four-cylinder engine. The new QX50, a mid-sized SUV, is scheduled to enter production next year.

Infiniti plans to offer more locally-produced cars and to push its SUV range. Despite China being the largest market for new energy vehicles (NEVs), Infiniti currently has no offerings in this segment.

“We offer HEVs (hybrids) as imports but going forward this is obviously the trend in this market and we have shared before that we are working on some concepts for NEVs but it is currently too early to make an announcement,” said Krueger.