From early 2020, Europeans will not be able to officially buy new Infiniti cars any more.
Nissan’s premium brand was created in 2008, but it failed to gain a foothold in the European premium car market, even after launching a pair of new models specifically designed for the continent.
To save money, Nissan has decided to give up trying to become an alternative to German brands and Lexus in Europe. Instead, Infiniti will focus on the markets where it has succeeded, namely the USA and China.
What went wrong with Infiniti? CarSaleBase believes there are three factors that have made the brand’s presence in Europe problematic from the start. There is one more impetus accelerating the failure in 2019.
Dominance of the German Big Three
First of all, it is the dominance of three large German brands: Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. They have become even more popular since the launch of Infiniti in Europe.
These three brands have such huge sales worldwide that they can expand their model ranges with the help of niche models on their existing platforms and technologies.
This allows targeting potential buyers who look for something different from the mainstream.
Volvo and Land Rover are the only successful competitors for the Germans in Europe due to safety, high quality and consistent design (Volvo), as well as off-road capabilities (Land Rover). Jaguar, Lexus and Alfa Romeo have always battled to succeed in Europe too.
Infiniti lacked good crossovers for the European market. SUVs have been the factor of growth for the luxury segment, especially in Europe. Buyers of crossovers seem more open to other brands.
Volvo, for example, has entered the TOP 3 annual sales with the XC60 and XC90. Land Rover sales have also grown significantly over the years, since its SUVs arrival, while the Jaguar F-Pace and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio became best-sellers immediately after the launch.
By its first launch in Europe, Infiniti already had a distinct image among those who knew the brand. The bold FX crosover (later renamed to the QX70) was popular, though as a gray-market import.
However, the brand has never benefited from that image, as it mostly produced sedans for Europe.
The QX60 and QX80 SUVs were excellent choices for American families, but too large and inefficient for European roads.
The QX50 is smaller and poor sold because of its awkward design and tight rear seats. Restyling improved this, but too late.
Lack of traditions
Infiniti lacked traditions. Americans care less about them, they are much more open to trying new brands and supporting the weak, while Europeans still care about brand heritage (especially in the luxury segment).
That is why Lexus needed much longer time to consolidate in Europe than in the United States. Infiniti has had no patience to continue trying for 20 years or so to establish itself.
Brexit has become the latest impulse to ‘break a camel’s back’. The most important Infiniti products for Europe, the Q30 and QX30, are manufactured at Nissan’s British plant.
The uncertainty about maintaining open supply chains to and from Europe has further complicated the situation. Or maybe it just facilitated solution to ‘pull the plug’.