The word for luxury car in Chinese is pronounced “Byoo-wick.” That is a word that Infiniti understands but hopes to soon redefine. General Motors and the European brands are doing so much business in China that it is starting to have a major impact on their strategy. For example, it is widely believed that the reason Buick survived GM’s demise a few years back, but Pontiac did not, is that Buick was well known as a brand in China. General Motors is on track to sell almost 3 million vehicles in China this year and Buick is leading the way. One of its top selling models, the Buick Excell, sold 57,000 units - In March. In fact, Buick outsold Cadillac handily as Cadillac sold under 3,000 cars total in March, nearly all of those being the SRX crossover. This sales dynamic has Infiniti realizing that there is an opportunity for the brand to jump in with both feet now and become established rather than concede the high-end luxury market to GM’s Cadillac division.
Long Wheelebase M
To do this Infiniti has designed a car specifically for China based on a stretched wheelbase M series sedan. The long-wheelbase M was unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show. Although the electric car Infiniti EMERG-E got all the attention, it is the stretch-M that is the real potential volume leader for Infiniti in China. Francois Bancon, Deputy Division General Manager for Infiniti China, says "What is special is that we make the car longer, the wheelbase is longer. You have this kind of impressive roominess, limousine roominess, which is a major requirement in China."
Cars are not the main problem Infiniti has in China right now however. Even if it had exactly the cars that the Chines consumer wanted there are few places for them to go to buy one. Like Cadillac, who is hoping to double dealerships in China from about 60 to about 120 this year, Infiniti is planning to blossom its dealer network as well. Infiniti hopes to increase the 25 dealerships it had last year to about 90 by the end of this year with that growth continuing to 128 by 2015.
Proving that Infiniti is quite serious about China, it is moving its headquarters there. Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, will visit the new HQ next month to make the opening official.
If ever one needed proof that the automobile market is indeed global, a Brazilian born Frenchman of Lebanese heritage, heading up a Japanese car company, will open its new headquarters in a former British colony, now governed by China.