I look at Infiniti's sales numbers in Canada and the first thing that pops to mind is, what's wrong with Infiniti?
Sure, sure, sales for Nissan's luxury brand are up 18 per cent on the year, but that's misleading. Infiniti Canada's market share is stagnant at 0.5 per cent, while rivals such as Audi - whose sales numbers were about equal to Infiniti just a couple of years ago - has picked up two-tenths of market share this year. Audi has sold 11,311 vehicles in Canada this year, compared to Infiniti's 6,246.
Audi does have a more extensive product line, so some of the explanation is right there in what the two brands offer. Audi, however, has been far, far more aggressive not just with launching new models into new niches, but also about its marketing and in bringing on dealers to push both the Vorsprung Durch Technik message and the brand's vision for luxury vehicles coming out of Germany.
Infiniti's marketing, to me, seems timid and its dealers far, far too uninvolved building some sort of consistent brand message. We're all still waiting for Infiniti to once and for all settle on a brand message. The "we're the Japanese BMW" thing just hasn't worked.
The real shame of it is that Infiniti has some pretty good products. For instance, the redesigned Infiniti M37 posted an "Excellent" score in Consumer Reports' ratings. The new M37 is CR's top-rated mid-sized luxury sedan, in fact.
In a recent test of three luxury cars, the Infiniti M delivered, says CR, "a great combination of performance, comfort, and luxury." For the record, the redesigned BMW 5-Series also posted an "Excellent" score, though the CR testers feel the 5 has "lost some of its agility."
Meanwhile, the Hyundai Genesis V-8 also had an "Excellent" road test score. Take note, bargain hunters; the Genesis V-8 costs thousands less than any of its six-cylinder powered competitors, notes CR.
"The Infiniti M37 combines agile handling, a taut yet comfortable ride, and a beautifully-finished interior," noted David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut.
A last point: While both the Infiniti M37 and Hyundai Genesis are recommended by CR, the BMW 5 Series is too new for CR to have reliability data.
Infiniti has good products, but not full market coverage with a line of models designed to meet a wide range of tastes and needs. Worse, Infiniti has been a marketing disaster for, oh, 20 years.
Infiniti still needs fixing, then. How would you go about doing the job?
Only a handful of car names become classics