Philipp Heldt
Managing Director
Infiniti Mexico and Latin America
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View from the Top

New Models Put Japanese Luxury on the Road

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 12:18

Q: What has driven Infiniti’s considerable growth and how are you planning to build on that?

A: We secured more than 23 consecutive months of record sales up to February 2016 after marking our fourth year of operations in Mexico. Overall year on year growth in 2015 was 23 percent,, well above the average of the premium segment. 

We released the new Q70 sedan in April 2015 for the business class segment and the vehicle has been successful despite limited growth rates in this segment in Mexico. We also debuted the renewed QX60 in a new hybrid version for which we have great expectations, given that this has been Infiniti’s best-selling SUV and second most-sold vehicle. The premium crossover provides flexible and accessible seating for up to seven passengers, delivering superior comfort and luxury standards with a refreshed exterior design and new safety technology.

Globally 2016 will be a vital year for Infiniti, mainly because of the number of vehicles we are planning to introduce. Most of the new models were presented at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January 2016 and will arrive in Mexico throughout the year. Our portfolio will include a new version of the Infiniti Q50 with a V6 3.0L engine of 400hp. This sports vehicle offers a more engaging and dynamic drive than ever, enhanced by next-generation ride and handling. This model integrates second generation Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) and there is an improvement in fuel efficiency of up to 6.7 percent, a best-in-class power-toefficiency ratio.

We will add the Infiniti QX30 to our lineup in the second half of 2016. This is a milestone as this model has no predecessor. The Infiniti QX30 will broaden our offerings to new customers around the world and allow us to compete in the compact premium segment, which has shown significant growth. This model will showcase a new 2.0L 208hp turbo engine coupled with a new gearbox, featuring completely state-of-the-art technology and sculpted design. We will also launch the new Infiniti Q60 in the second half of 2016, our flagship coupé with a 2+2 layout created with a daring design, expressive proportions and exhilarating performance. This will be an inspirational model for us and a halo vehicle for the Infiniti brand. The Infiniti Q60 will include our new high-performance 3.0L V6 twin-turbo engine and our innovative drivetrain technologies. These deliver a powerful driving experience with direct injection and a potential output of 400hp.

Q: What are your expectations for the new plant in Aguascalientes?

A: To manufacture all these cars we had to increase our manufacturing footprint. We expanded out of Japan opening an assembly plant and an engine factory in the US, a manufacturing branch in China to supply the rapiddeveloping market in that country and the QX30 is going to be manufactured in the UK.

The latest announcement is our new COMPAS plant in Mexico, an investment of US$1 billion and a true statement of our commitment to the country and the brand’s development. It will generate close to 4,000 jobs and the plant is expected to produce close to 230,000 vehicles a year. Construction has started in Aguascalientes and we plan to use Nissan’s experience to fuel our new operations, scheduled for 2017. As a joint venture between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler, we plan to bring the best of both worlds to our new manufacturing operations.

Q: How has Infiniti embraced the input of clients in the design processes?

A: We had a strong technology transfer program, so the lessons we learned from Formula 1 trickled down to our passenger vehicles, especially the Infiniti Q50. This model featured some industry-first technologies like DAS. The world’s first digital steering system offers advanced levels of steering feel and feedback, providing extensive customization options. We have evolved from being title sponsors for one of the teams to becoming a technical partner in the newly formed Renault Sport F1 team. Our CEO, Carlos Ghosn, presented our new car in Paris in February along with the drivers who will be competing in 2016. Through this partnership, Infiniti will supply all the energy recovery technology related to our successful hybrid technology.

Design is integral as we want to be an alternative in the premium segment. Infiniti strives for the best technology and performance. We have developed intuitive useroriented solutions. Safety has also been a priority in our design process, highlighting our Infiniti Safety Shield as one of our main innovations.

Q: How is Infiniti improving the company's sales and aftersales services having expanded its distribution network in Mexico?

A: Four years ago, we began operations with five dealerships. Two are in Mexico City in Polanco and Pedregal, one in Interlomas, State of Mexico, and one each in the cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara. Then we expanded to Merida, Leon and Puebla and finally adding one more in Chihuahua in 2015. Our nine Infiniti Centers cover almost 80 percent of the market in the premium segment but we see opportunities to reach the remaining 20 percent.

The Chihuahua dealership features our “2.0 global standard,” which gives the impression of being in a highend hotel rather than a vehicle dealership. Combined with our customer hospitality this gives us an extra edge over our competitors and creates the best atmosphere in which to buy a car. Our aftersales facilities are top-of-theline, offering personalized and professional service with strict follow-up for each premium client.

Q: As the brand introduces the new QX60, how do you see hybrid models impacting Infiniti’s presence in Mexico?

A: Hybrid models have been a success story for Infiniti in Mexico. One of our core technological assets is hybrid innovation and we have already launched two models in the country with a truly unique design proposal that is supported by our extended experience using this technology. The prices we have established for our hybrid models have been extremely attractive for the segment and customers are considering the numerous advantages in terms of fuel economy, performance and tax advantages depending on the state.

The Q50 has seen months where 30 percent of our sales have been hybrid versions. Even though it was only introduced in 2015, the QX60 is doing fantastic and we are almost always sold out on our hybrid versions.