Nissan's Infiniti luxury division is taking direct aim at the big three from Germany, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
And no one is more impatient to take on the Germans than Andy Palmer, Nisan's executive vice-president and chairman of newly formed Infiniti Motor Co., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nissan. Infiniti must move quickly as "as a global contender," says Palmer. By 2017, the goal is to jump-start Infiniti sales to a goal of 500,000 worldwide – with two-thirds of that grown coming everywhere but North America – from about 172,000 last year.
Infiniti has massively ambitious plans. The key is to expand what Palmer calls the "purchasing funnel." That is, Infiniti must increase "unaided awareness," or what the marketing types call the widest part of the funnel at the top, where awareness among consumers is broad but undefined. Infiniti needs a massive increase in the number of buyers who are aware of the brand, what it stands for and what vehicles it sells. Infiniti needs to cast a wider net.
"We need to articulate what Infiniti is," says Palmer. But he's realistic.
"You don't build a premium brand overnight," says Palmer, noting that Nissan's top management will be patient to a point – 2017, it seems. By then, the world should know exactly what Infiniti is and it's not what Palmer calls "Nissan Plus."
"We need Infiniti to be in the same competitive set as BMW, Mercedes and Audi," he says.
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