INFINITI Australia managing director Jean-Philipe Roux says admits his company has been standing still but that the launch of the flagship Infiniti QX80 is the start of wave two as the brand wakes from hibernation.
“We haven’t been very loud in the past about Infiniti,” the Frenchman told Wheels, eight months after taking up the role. “We’ve been pretty quiet.”
That silence has been broken by the QX80 as the company begins its most aggressive new-model onslaught since arriving in Australia in late 2012.
Coming models include the Infiniti Q30 hatch, based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and due to be shown in production form at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, the QX30 (based on the Mercedes GLA) and the Q60 sports car.
Yet Infiniti needs to prepare to make the most of having more attractive models and a wider product offering, and that means expanding its tiny dealer network.
“We need to become a national player,” Roux said. “With three dealers only, we’re not a national player.
“So first things first, and the first basics are: better coverage of Sydney; better coverage of Melbourne; and Perth.
“Tier Two is to start developing a service and parts dealership on the back of the Nissan network.
“We’ve been standing still over the last months, very much working on those basics, but now it’s time for us to be a bit more on the front foot and to start engaging with the whole industry a bit more.”
The expansion is part of the strategy to develop brand accessibility and awareness.
“It’s very much driven by product. The arrival of Q50 enabled us to drive a bit more volume, and with Q30, because we’ll be driving more sales and volume opportunities to our network, we’ll be in a position to offer the franchise to more potential partners.
“I don’t have a set number [of dealers] in mind.”
Infiniti has had to endure tough times since the brand arrived in Australia; global chief Johan de Nysschen defected to General Motors and his boss, Andy Palmer, commented that “we don’t need Infiniti, we just don’t need that brand”. Palmer has since left Renault-Nissan to join Aston Martin.
Locally, Infiniti has churned through four MDs in less than three years, with Roux now the second-longest serving after a mere eight months.
Roux is clear about what Infiniti needs to do and why it exists.
“For some other groups, the premium offering is X percent of the volume, but it’s a much bigger proportion of the profit. So the target goal is to drive more profits to the organisation. So, yes, Nissan does need Infiniti, and as far as Australia is concerned it’s a way to expand the business.”
He says the QX80 is not a one-shot and will be permanent fixture in Infiniti’s local line-up, despite its low sales expectations. Instead, it’s about showing off the brand and underlining its commitment to Australia.
“One of my targets is to come back to you by the end of this year with dealer openings. That means we’re on the move and demonstrates we are committed to Australia and we are committed to grow.”
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