NEW YORK – Despite a 33% plunge in sales this year, average vehicle-transaction prices forMotor Co. Ltd.’s Infiniti luxury brand are up, Vice President Ben Poore says.
“Ostentation is down in this market, and luxury prices are also down, but our prices are up $1,000 per unit,” the executive tells Ward’s.
Infiniti says it has posted record market-share totals in three different months so far this year, including September, when the brand achieved an all-time industry stake of 0.9%. Additionally, the QX SUV saw its best-ever share in September.
Poore says an inventory shortage contributed to Infiniti's sales declines in some months. “At times, (we’ve) been running only 25-days’ supply.”
In addition, Infiniti's competitors have more new product in the marketplace. But the brand promises it is about to change.
Infiniti will have a freshened G lineup that will debut in December, and an all new M model will be introduced next spring. And the all-new QX will be considered among the best luxury products in America, Poore says. “We are set up pretty well as we move into next year.”
An indication of better things to come was evident at the Pebble Beach, CA, Concours d’Elegance in August, where Infiniti's coupe concept, the Essence, had its North American premiere. Overall attendance at the event sagged 5%, but Infiniti says its stand saw a 20% hike in visitors, along with a big increase in test drives.
While Poore admits the brand has at times “had multiple directions,” he says Infiniti now is focused on providing inspired performance.
The marque also is targeting quicker response to customer concerns. “We've eliminated paper surveys,” Poore says. “We now call all new customers within 24 hours to determine if they are satisfied (with their purchase). If there's an issue, we can tackle it immediately.”
Infiniti has no immediate plans to compete with German luxury brands in the U.S. by offering diesels. However, it does plan to introduce its first diesels in Europe in a year. “It gives us an opportunity to bring them here,” Poore says.
The luxury-car segment comprises about 11%-12% of the total industry at present, and Poore forecasts a slow, steady improvement in sales.
“We are already seeing it,” he says, noting many luxury customers are moving down market, which bodes well for the forthcoming new M. The car is smaller and less-expensive than large sedans such as7-Series.