Infiniti headed to NZ?
Nissan’s premium nameplate Infiniti will almost certainly muscle in on the executive SUV market in New Zealand next year with its range of QX models.
It is understood the brand will be a stand-alone operation, run separately from Nissan NZ. Inquiries by NZ Autocar about the arrival of the Infiniti line-up were directed by Nissan NZ managing director John Manley to Infiniti Cars Australia (ICA).
Its corporate communications manager Peter Fedeyev wouldn’t be drawn on Infiniti breaking new ground here. “We constantly look at growth opportunities in new markets, including New Zealand. But we don’t have anything to announce at this point.”
At this point? Industry sources on both sides of the Tasman say Infiniti is indeed looking to launch select models of its prestigious range of SUVs – QX30, QX50, QX70, QX80 – to cash in on the segment’s continued growth in NZ.
The introduction of a select number of Infiniti cars and coupes would depend on the success of SUV sales, we have been told.
Infiniti sales alone grew 22 per cent in the Asian and Oceania regions last year. SUV numbers in NZ account for around 35 per cent of overall registrations. The segment continues to spawn new arrivals, the latest being the Jaguar F-Pace.
Infiniti’s latest SUV is the mid-sized QX50, expected to be powered by a four-cylinder petrol engine with variable compression, an industry first for a production vehicle. Asked if QX50 would join Infiniti’s model range in Australia, Fedeyev said: “That is our intention.”
The QX50 would be available there in 2017, some months after the new QX30, a compact SUV. It shares its platform with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class range, the result of the Renault-Nissan Alliance tie-up with the German badge.
The QC30 would take on the BMW X1, Audi Q3, among others. The bigger QX50 would challenge rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, and various Lexus SUVs. The immediate opposition for QX70 and QX80 would be the BMW X5, Audi Q7, and Benz M-Class.
Infiniti launched in Australia in 2012. In 2011, Nissan NZ chief Manley said Infiniti was looking at a stand-alone dealership in Auckland.”It’s only a feasibility study at this stage to assess the potential of Infiniti here,” he told me when I was motoring editor of the NZ Herald. “But it is an exciting brand, has really attractive vehicles, and we believe people here would be interested in what it has to offer.”
Fast forward to 2016 and industry sources say Infiniti is definitely on its way.