A CNN Money article caught my attention yesterday because it makes the point that Infiniti wants to be like Audi.
Well, of course it does. That’s like saying a high school basketball player wants to grow up to be like Lebron.
The difference here is the high school kid can’t hire Lebron’s coach. Nissan, Infiniti’s parent company, wants so badly to emulate Audi that it has hired the guy who ran Audi in the U.S. for the last 19 years. Doesn’t get much more blatant than that!
Yes, Audi has seen remarkable growth and success, particularly in the last decade, while Infiniti has struggled to carve a niche for itself the way its arch-nemesis, Lexus, has. But is trying to become a Japanese version of Audi the best way to sell cars?
I’m not so sure.
Audi has reached the stratosphere of automotive luxury and performance by adhering to a simple, in theory, formula: Reduce the number of vehicles produced, minimize discounts and introduce exciting new vehicles that energize the brand and live up to advertised expectations. Doing those things created prestige and commands a high price for Audi. But the formula isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone, all the time.
The man who saved Audi, and now heads up Infiniti, is Johan De Nysschen. According to the CNN article, when employed by the Germans, he
led the resurgence of a troubled Audi after predecessors floundered. He led a methodically planned and executed renaissance of the brand in the U.S. which is likely to be a case study for future automotive executives. Though in its native Europe Audi has long been seen in league with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, in America its perception until recently lagged. De Nysschen was the architect of a grand strategy that remedied that.
Infiniti certainly needs a complete re-do of its perception, not to mention some excitement in the vehicles it offers. I mean, there isn’t even a halo car in the stable to motivate enthusiasts into the brand. That could change, and probably will, with De Nysscehn running things. Could the Infiniti Essence concept do for Infiniti what the R8 did for Audi?
Maybe. While I’m not convinced the Audi formula will work, at least not anytime soon, we can perhaps look forward to a slew of new and revised models on the way from Infiniti. Hopefully, starting with a supercar.
What would it take for you to consider buying a new Infiniti?