“So would this new Infiniti Q50 be the new JDM Nissan Skyline?” asked TTAC commenter luvmyv8. One of the benefits of having a TTAC editor on the other side of the globe, as opposed to in a basement in Peoria, is that we can get first-hand answers to luvmyv8, straight from Nissan’s and Infiniti’s top men.
“What I can tell you today is that the Skyline name will continue in Japan,” said Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn in regards to luvmyv8. When pressed further, Ghosn said that bringing Infiniti to Japan “has always been the object of a lot of discussion within the company.” Ghosn started his answer with a mild put-down:
“With the arrival of newcomers … by Johan de Nysschen now heading the Infiniti business, he also brought with him a lot of very competent people from the industry who have a very good knowledge of the premium market. We are debating and challenging everything. But so far there is no decision that has been taken about the introduction of the Infiniti brand to Japan. But it is being discussed. There are pros, there are cons. Usually, we make thorough business decisions based on the analysis of the pros and the cons. For the moment, all I can tell you is that there is no decision to introduce Infiniti in Japan. The Skyline will continue in Japan.”
TTAC readers know that Infiniti chief de Nysschen is a strong advocate of Infiniti coming home to Japan. In an interview last year in Hong Kong, de Nysschen said :
“Ironically, we take models that are unique Infiniti platforms, developed for Infiniti, and in Japan, we put a Nissan badge on them.”
De Nysschen may be a newcomer to Nissan, but not to Japan. He managed Audi’s business in Japan, and came here in 1999, at the same time as Ghosn arrived in Tokyo. Ghosn immediately wanted to hire de Nysschen, but had to take a rain-check. De Nysschen knows the market, and that it is not easy.
When a reporter asked de Nysschen in Tochigi about Infiniti’s homecoming plans, the questioner found himself instantly castigated:
“So, that means that if you ask Mr. Ghosn a question and he doesn’t answer, you are making another attempt to get an answer out of me?”
Nevertheless, there was an answer, delivered wrapped into de Nysschen’s trademark carefully carved sentences:
“To be a global brand, you might well want to compete in the premium sector in your domestic market.
We spend a lot of time talking about Infiniti brand values, and how those are to be communicated, not only in the tone and manner of our marketing and our advertising communication, but also, they need to be expressed and conveyed through the product, through design, through technology, through the engineering.
It seems to me to be very difficult for all the men and women who work on expressing these values in the Infiniti product to then not also see the vehicle and the brand being available in the domestic market.
Also, in term s of the international flavor for the brand, our customers are internationally mobile. And one important cornerstone of premium brands is that wherever you encounter them, they are positioned consistently, they portray the same values and qualities, whether you meet them in New York, or in London, or in Beijing, or indeed in Tokyo.”
After having made a strong philosophical case for estranged Infiniti coming home, de Nysschen sees himself faced with the realities:
“One of the disadvantages of course is cost of entry. It is very expensive to set up a distribution network in Japan. Last time I looked, not too many free open spaces were shouting to come and build an automotive showroom.”
Again, this is coming from a former Audi manager who had busted a cozy (and largely unknown) distribution agreement between Volkswagen and Toyota, and who had talked Ferdinand Piech into setting up an exclusive network in Japan. Eventually, this led to the end of Volkswagen’s Japanese distribution agreement with Toyota. This case should be a required course in the education of carmakers, especially those who feel entitled to major shares of the Japanese market without really trying. Continued de Nysschen:
“It is my commitment that Infiniti will achieve profitable growth, and that we will achieve very quickly a positive contribution to the overall operating profit of Nissan. That means that we have to balance the speed with which we want to enter the Japanese market.”
I take that as a carefully wrapped no.
In regards to luvmyv8’s question and with regards to luvmyv8, de Nysschen said that “on the Skyline, I really have no further comments to add other than those already expressed by Mr. Ghosn. I would urge you to be patient for just a little while.”
As this is a question and answer session, let me try to answer 28-cars-later’s inquiry. He said: “Bertel, how do you get such access to Ghosn… is Nissan just *this* friendly to the press?” Instead of a simple and pat “yes,” let’s make a separate story out of that.