Nissan’s upmarket division Infiniti is launching a fleet expansion programme as part of a plan to send UK sales rocketing twentyfold.
Although only a bit-part player today, with just 232 total UK sales last year and 1,000 predicted this year (although half-year figures sit at just 162), Infiniti has a plan to hit 20,000 sales here by 2015 – and around half will be in the corporate sector.
Chief executive Carlos Ghosn revealed his plan to bolster Infiniti sales “to hit 10% global market share of the luxury car market worldwide – that’s when we will reach our potential”.
Although Ghosn refused to put a timeline on his 10% goal, he revealed a succession of new products and business strategies to swell Infiniti sales to around 700,000 cars a year worldwide. To put that in perspective, this year Infiniti expects to sell around 165,000 cars globally.
“Unless we can approach fleets, we will never get anywhere near 10% of the market, particularly when half of the available market in the UK is in business sales,” Ghosn told Fleet News. “That is why we want to provide our team with the product allowing them to compete.”
He pointed to a new model based around the Etherea concept car, which will enter Infiniti into the mid-sized hatchback market competing with the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series, as well as a new electric car coming in 2013.
Ghosn promised a range of new, smaller diesel engines would put future models on the choice lists of thousands of British company car drivers. Today, Infiniti offers mostly V6 and V8 engines upwards of 3.0 litres in capacity, making them inaccessible to most business users.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance struck a partnership with Daimler last year to develop new products together and swap engine technology. Thus Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder diesels will power future Infinitis, drastically cutting CO2 emissions and company car tax bills.
“Our accessible market will increase by something like 13 or 14 times by adding four-cylinder diesel engines,” Ghosn said. “The V6 market is relatively small.”
The new four-cylinder diesels will appear in the G and M ranges, Infiniti’s equivalent to the BMW 3-series and BMW 5-series models.
Tony Lewis, Infiniti’s new corporate director in Great Britain, said the new products coincided with a major expansion of the brand’s dealer network. Today there are just six Infiniti centres in the UK, but that will rise to 11 by the end of next year – and 40 in 2015.
Fleets of 25-plus will be handled centrally by Nissan GB’s corporate sales team, but the end user will still pick up the car from their local Infiniti centre.
“The new Infiniti M hybrid is moving us into the choice lists of many fleet buyers,” added Lewis, who said the M35h’s 162g/km CO2 rating and 40.4mpg combined economy would let Infiniti compete more aggressively with the German premium hegemony.
Insiders suggest that further tweaks could bring the M35h’s CO2 figure below the all-important 160g/km threshold for Capital Allowance write-downs.
Ghosn said the company had largely ignored fleet sales until now (it sold only around 70 Infinitis to UK corporate customers last year) but insisted that its earlier retail focus would give it a head start in the business sector.
Author: Tim Pollard