New Infiniti-boss and former Audi U.S. chief Johan de Nysschen wants to bring Infiniti home to Japan. He had said this to me last September in his office in Hong Kong, and he reiterated it again in Detroit when talking to the Wall Street Journal’s man in Japan, Chester Dawson. Back home in Yokohama, people are sucking air through their teeth. “Muzukashi desu ne.” This will be difficult.
Infinitis are sold in about 50 markets worldwide, but not in Japan. In Japan, an Infiniti G is sold as the Nissan Skyline for instance. De Nysschen wants to change this. Back in Hong Kong, he said:
“Ironically, we take models that are unique Infiniti platforms, developed for Infiniti, and in Japan, we put a Nissan badge on them. I want to go and speak to my colleagues who are responsible for the Japanese domestic market and explore a way in a pragmatic manner in which we can respect their needs and their expectations and their requirements for the Nissan dealer network, but also that we can give Infiniti the opportunity to establish the brand in its home market.”
To Dawson, de Nysschen said that a study is underway to determine how to integrate the brand into Nissan’s domestic dealer network. De Nysschen loves Japan, he was the head of Audi Japan before he took the U.S. job.
A usually reliable contact at Nissan’s Yokohama HQ gives the project low odds. It is tricky and costly to establish a new brand in Japan, even for a Nissan. In Yokohama, they point at Lexus’ lack of success at home, and that it was not for a lack of trying. At Toyota, the large Crown is an easier sell than a large Lexus. De Nysschen’s boss at Nissan, Andy Palmer, echoed that sentiment to the WSJ:
“It is tough to come into the Japanese market. If you look at Lexus, it hasn’t been an easy journey for them.”
Most likely, the study into Infiniti’s entry of the Japanese market will end in the recommendation to get a firm foot-hold in other markets first.