Infinti unveiled its long-wheel base M model at the Beijing auto show on Monday, and Executive Vice President Andy Palmer spoke with the Global Media Center on plans ahead for China, including the production of two models in the nation from 2014.
Q1: Infiniti has recently announced some ambitious expansion plans for China. What are the specifics?
EVP Andy Palmer: Infiniti is always ambitious and it's part of being a challenger brand, so we're always going to be making announcements that way.
Earlier this year we announced that we would be moving the global headquarters of Infiniti to Hong Kong. I don't think any other brand initially has moved its domicile.
A part of that is recognizing the importance of China, and the importance of Southeast Asia. It obviously follows that when you start manufacturing cars like the long-wheel based M - specifically designed for China - when you've moved your headquarters to Hong Kong, that you would want to manufacture there.
And indeed, that's what we've announced - in 2014 with our relationship with Dongfeng Limited, we're going to manufacture two Infiniti vehicles. We haven't announced yet what those vehicles will be, but clearly they will be important vehicles to support the growth of the presence of the brand.
We"re doing this step by step. First of all, establish the brand, establish then the brand in China as you would like it to be. It's basically a challenger brand, a full brand for young luxury customers. Then, we move our headquarters - make sure that you understand the customer requirements in detail, and then start to bring cool cars like this Infinti M long-wheel base, which is specific to Chinese customer requirements.
Naturally, that's the time to start thinking about localization, where you can preserve the brand value, while at the same time grow the market. Clearly, our intention is to be globally at 10% market share in the luxury TIV.
Q2: With that plan, you are also looking at Infiniti dealerships and sales. What are the details?
EVP Andy Palmer: Somewhere out there in China, there are customers with no dealership to go to. We have a clear intention by the end of this year that we will have 90 dealers here in China; it's only a year ago we had 25, so the enormous amount of growth, ultimately by 2015, is going to be about 128 dealers inside China.
You've got mechanical growth coming by great new products and more dealers, but then you have organic growth by making the brand cool, and making people who really want to buy the brand. You need both, and that's what is going to make China define what the Infinti is.
Q3. With the establishment of the global HQ in Hong Kong, what does that say about how important this market is?
EVP Andy Palmer: It tells you everything. We see the necessity to give Infinti oxygen from within the Nissan Motor corporate headquarters group. You have to breathe the brand, you have to live the brand. You need the autonomy to be able to do the right things for the brand, so being a little bit separate from Nissan HQ has its advantage, but you can't be completely separated. You still need to draw on the technology, the manufacturing knowhow.
You have to think - if you had a clean sheet - where you would put the luxury brand. Would you put it in the U.S., because that's where the majority of your sales are? Or would you put it into - let's say - Germany, because that's the heart of luxury? Or do you put it into a region that is now defining luxury?
China and Southeast Asia are defining luxury, and what we're creating here is the Asian car company, the Asian luxury car company, which - if we do it right - will fit in everywhere across the world, because Asia is cool right now.
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