By on August 10, 2019

As it blows out the candles on its 30th birthday cake, Infiniti’s biggest problems aren’t rocks and trees, but sales. That, and a shaky financial foundation underpinning its parent’s house.

Unlike in 1989, when the fledgling premium brand tempted buyers to pick up a new Q45, um, sight unseen, Infiniti is doing all it can to draw pairs of eyes to its real, physical vehicles, launching an Edition 30 trim package to mark the anniversary.

What does Edition 30 bring to the table? Standard safety features and blacked-out trim pieces, mainly. On the Q50, Q60, QX50, QX60, and QX80, ticking the birthday box brings a slew of driver-assist niceties to the table, among them Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist, Around View Monitor, Backup Collision Intervention, and Predictive Forward Collision Warning.

Normally, one would need to spring for the optional ProAssist package to bring these onboard. Added to these electronic saviors are a black chrome grille surround, fender trim, side-view mirrors, rear finisher, and dark-finish wheels.

Everything else remains the same. On sale this fall, the Edition 30 crop will tempt buyers at the end of a year that promises to be even worse than the last. The Infiniti brand pushed itself to a post-recession high water mark in 2017, unloading 153,415 vehicles in the U.S. and capping off six consecutive years of sales growth. Considering the brand had dwindled into five-figure territory by 2011, this was an achievement in itself.

And yet momentum stalled as the industry cooled off. Infiniti’s current rate of contraction outpaces that of the industry. While the decline from 2017 to 2018 came in at 2.7 percent, sales though the end of July show a year-to-date loss of 12.5 percent. Vehicles like the recently revamped QX50 remain in the red (QX50 sales fell 2.3 percent, year to date), while passenger car volume is down 29.9 percent thus far in 2019. Its utility vehicle lineup posted a 2.5 percent drop.

The only vehicle showing consistent gains is the flagship QX80, refreshed for 2019, which saw its popularity rise 18 percent this year. Luckily for Infiniti, that’s a vehicle with beefy margins.

As Nissan struggles to overcome its financial slump, all the while resisting the urge to boost incentives, Infiniti finds itself with a stable of mostly shrinking models and a future steeped in uncertainty. Come 2021, all new Infiniti models will be electrified in one way or another ⁠— hybrids, including Nissan’s novel e-Power system, and pure electrics, the latter crop heralded by a procession of concept cars numerous enough to risk spreading confusion. Ominously, one broke down before reaching the stage at this year’s Detroit auto show.

America’s appetite for EVs is no sure thing, and potential demand for an electric Infiniti has to take the popularity of present-day models into account, at least to some degree. Earlier this year, Infiniti pulled out of Europe after failing to ignite a spark.

The road carrying Infiniti into the future lies under stormy skies.

[Images: Infiniti]

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56 Comments on “Infiniti at 30: Special Editions and Uncertainty...”


  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Infiniti sales figures are grossly mis-represented as they pack the rental fleets. A better question is how many units do they sell to individuals who pony up either their own cash or their own name on a lease or loan. I respectfully submit, not very many.

    This is a silly brand, useless dealer network and is an absolute cash drain on the parent company. I mentioned it before; Nissan can save Nissan by rebadging all of the current Infiniti product with a Nissan badge and a traditional Nissan name. This buys Nissan some time to come up a model line up for 2022 and beyond that appeals to a buyer who has greater than a 600 fico score. Stop being Pontiac, it did not end well remember….

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      The road to profitability for the auto industry is the same as any other industry these days: appeal to the wealthy and well-heeled. The folks behind Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, et al., aren’t losing any sleep.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        @Hydromatic: “The road to profitability for the auto industry is the same as any other industry these days: appeal to the wealthy and well-heeled.”

        Agreed. Realistically, we now have new cars that regular people shouldn’t spend their money on because of depreciation, and very well running 3-5 year old cars that the wealthier of the country have spent their money on initially but which now have depreciated to where a regular person can, and should, be buying them.

        I would say a 3 year old Infiniti or Acura or Lexus–or even higher spec mainstream car like an Accord Touring–is way, way better of a buy than a new Camaltcord LX Special Edition with the sunroof thrown in to try to get you to buy it at that price.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Good analysis. Much like Acura there’s no way this division makes money if you attribute costs accurately. Just the number of sales and marketing domos riding the back of this thing is enough to drag profitability under.

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      Recently, the excess car inventory parked near my house at a shopping mall, while still keeping 50-75 Teslas, has been beat by the number of Infinity cars. Not a good sign.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “while still keeping 50-75 Teslas”: Are they the same teslas? They could be different cars just rotated through the lot. Have you been writing down the VINs? In my area, I see trucks full of teslas rolling down 95. I’m pretty sure they’re different cars each time, but then again I don’t have the VINs either so…

        • 0 avatar
          JoeBrick

          @mca- Oh, yeah, I’m sure that he writes down all the VINs just to be ready in case you might ask…(or are you just trolling him ?)

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I’m just saying, they could be different cars in that lot with new cars rotated in. It can be hard to tell. Even the trucks I see look like they have the same load of cars every time because it’s always black and grey cars. Of course, I’m not checking VINs myself to verify. They are starting to get to be sort of common around here. Every time I head out onto the roads I’ll see two, three, or more. And that’s not counting neighbors and coworkers that have them.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Could be different Infiniti’s too.

        • 0 avatar
          ravenuer

          Maybe it’s only one truck load of Teslas, going back and forth on 95.

          • 0 avatar
            civicjohn

            @Art, mcs, and Joe,

            No, even I don’t have the patience to take pictures of VINs! Tesla only came into the discussion because I had said there was a butt-load of Infinity cars stuffed at the same mall. I don’t really pay as much attention to the rolling Infinity status, but it continues to grow and it’s mostly SUVs. Infinity is loaded up with inventory.

            For full disclosure, my interest in the Tesla stash is that I’ve shorted the stock a couple of times and made money doing it. It’s so risky, I get scared every time I put the order in place, but my son now has a better idea of how things work in the stock market. He’s in college and only puts his money in an S&P 500 ETF.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I basically implied that checking the VINs was ridiculous since I wasn’t doing it to back up my own claims. I had no idea where the trucks were going – to the dealership or some storage area or whatever.

            As far as the lot you’ve seen, you have no idea either as to what it is or if the stock is rotating through, getting shipped out, or if there is a backlog on deliveries. You don’t know – got it. Understand. Some ICE dealers do the same thing and put recieved stock on offsite storage. I’ve seen it.

            As far as production numbers of Tesla etc. I really don’t have time to obsess over mundane crap I really don’t care about. I really don’t care. I’m not going to waste my time spending hours pouring over their financials. I have a life and have better things to do.

        • 0 avatar
          civicjohn

          @mcs, don’t get your panties in a wad, I know you love Tesla, but my son and I (when he was home from college), only learned about this spot because I was driving to my house behind a truckload of Teslas. Instead of turning left to the dealership (which by the way is loaded with inventory), he turned right towards the mall. We followed, and found a s**t load of Teslas – both in Q1 and Q2. No, I didn’t capture the VIN numbers, as there appeared that there was a Tesla associate telling the truck driver where to park them. Several times there was over 150 vehicles.

          The main point of our visit was to help him understand the stock market in a unique way. Tesla is one of the most shorted stocks in the market and when they shove excess inventory into a parking lot 1 mile away from the dealership, somethings amiss.

          I can’t post the pictures here, but there was a hella lot of Model S and X, and a bunch of Model 3s. Anyone paying attention to Tesla knows that they discounted the crap out of S and X to get rid of them – free supercharging, massive discounts, etc. If you think this is wrong, then tell me. I saw it with my own eyes and took pictures. All of the Model 3s as far as I could tell were the expensive versions, the ones they need to sell to try and keep the margins up. They aren’t rotating them through the lot, that’s a silly comment, otherwise you wouldn’t need a car transporter as the dealership is 1 mile away.

          That’s why Q3 will be another debacle. The China factory is going to get “knock down kits” to start delivery, which means they won’t have the line equipment available to manufacture when the facility opens. One of your earlier posts stated that they would kick out 30,000 Model 3s in China this year when I called you out on your amazement of their deliveries. The guidance is still 360,000 to 400,000 units for 2019, and it won’t happen. Just take a look at the deliveries in Q1 (63,000) and Q2 (95,200) – those numbers aren’t mine, they are on the Tesla website. Please tell me how they will deliver 201,800 units in the next 2 quarters to even meet the low end of their forecast, which wasn’t changed during the Q2 earnings call.

          • 0 avatar
            civicjohn

            @mcs, your words first:

            “As far as production numbers of Tesla etc. I really don’t have time to obsess over mundane crap I really don’t care about. I really don’t care. I’m not going to waste my time spending hours pouring over their financials. I have a life and have better things to do.”

            It was soo hard to go to the Tesla website and find the “mundane crap” about “production numbers”. You should really focus on delivery numbers, because that’s what brings money into the till. You seem to always be able to justify how great Tesla is and how many cars they are selling, but it appears by your post that you don’t have 2 minutes to find out the real information. Maybe you should lay off defending companies that make promise after promise and don’t deliver. FSD by the end of 2019, a coast to coast drive in 2016, solar roofs, Semis, Roadsters with rockets, so ridiculous. You even said that Tesla will produce 30,000 cars in China this year!

            Here you go again:

            “You don’t know – got it. Understand. Some ICE dealers do the same thing and put recieved stock on offsite storage. I’ve seen it.” How silly. My post was about the growing numbers of Infiniti cars at the same location, and to further reinforce the status of sell-through, there is a bunch of Hyundais gathering dust as well. Pretty lame response to say “I really don’t care.” and yet you seem too have some insight as to how Tesla will lead us to the promised land.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Owned the first and second generation G35 for 10 years. These cars were fun to drive and undercut the BMW 3 price significantly although with less refinement and interior quality. Infiniti lost their way and me as a customer when the Q50 and it’s drive by wire come to market.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Profits are under threat, sales are flat or declining, what should we do?

    Recently minted MBA strategist response: the answer is obvious – we need to make more products that people will buy in limited numbers even when heavily subsidized, and which are unprofitable for everyone that already makes them (including our own). The secret to success in the modern economy is to lose enough money to make our stock price rise and/or until we receive a government bailout.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Love my wife’s “beater” 2008 M35x – a very competent, easy to drive car with a nice greenhouse. The mew Q cars – well. short of the Redline – don’t do much for me. Nothing like the old G37x, which was on my want list for a long time.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    When Renault bought Nissan, Infiniti suffered also. I had an Infiniti G20 and thought it was a wonderful car, but they just got left in the dust by Lexus and Acura.

    Their cars just don’t age well.

    • 0 avatar

      Part of the aging is resale value.

      because their models are always a little bit less desirable, they always hold their value a little bit worse. Then they fall to owners who don’t take care of them faster. Additional side item that doesn’t help is the JDM VIP people. They often can’t afford a Lexus to ruin, which is why you rarely see a stock G35.

  • avatar
    JoeBrick

    I remember the FIRST Infiniti. It had no grille, and one car mag (C and D ?) said it had a “belt buckle” on its hood. I think the shame was too much, because they changed it with the next model.

  • avatar
    gasser

    It’s frightening, but the original rocks and trees ads put them in the grave. Infiniti never recovered from running so far behind Lexus. Whenever the ads appeared on TV, my friends and I would scream “show us the car!!!” Chronic cash starvation from then on. Also, the “heard mentality” of buyers, really placed a cap on the number of buyers, in that if no one IS buying the brand, no one WILL buy the brand.
    The G series, was a huge leap forward, but the M series never took off. Here in Beverly Hills, California, the Infiniti dealer has closed its doors. Nissan has to kill the brand and sell some of the SUVs as luxury Nissan models. Nissan should also spike the Maxima while they’re at it.

  • avatar

    Are there any Europeans in this forum who can explain why they don’t want to buy such an ugly cars? I still can imagine that Infinities/Nissans can be popular in less developed countries like China or Russia, or USA, who do not care about aesthetics and are most concerned about price to size ratio.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    So this brand may not go to Infiniti and beyond?! :-D

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Infiniti can still be summed-up by the prescient words of ‘Golden Girls’ matriarch Sophia Petrillo:

    Dorothy: Hi, Ma- what are you doing?

    Sophia: Thinking.

    Dorothy: About what?

    Sophia: About wind, water, rocks- about man’s place in the delicate balance of nature’s harmony; where we’re going- where the road ends.

    Dorothy: Gee, Ma, I never knew you were so philosophical.

    Sophia: I’m not. It’s those damn Infiniti commercials. They’re driving me crazy!

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The world was a lot different place 30 years ago. The Japanese saw an opportunity to go for the title and took it. Lexus, Acura and Infiniti were released into the wild. Here in the US, folks lapped it up as fast as they could, as (at least the Lexus was) a very good deal. It about flattened the USDM luxury car market, they were still prepared for the $4.00 gallon of fuel that never materialized by 1985. They could not pivot fast enough. The Germans were caught with their pants down, too, so to speak. But the Germans had a plan and they *could* pivot.

    In reality, outside of the flagship models, these Japanese luxury makes were rebadges of cars they already produced, i.e. the lower line Lexus models. Unfortunately for Honda and Nissan, they could not keep up with Toyota’s cadence and their models languished. Mazda thought about it and (IMO) correctly read the situation. While the domestic nameplates were busy buying up the remaining European luxury marques, the Germans doubled down and got to business. Honestly, I don’t know what the domestics were thinking back then (FoMoCo and the PAG). They needed to actually invest in their domestic ‘luxury’ marques and just p!ssed away valuable time.

    Out of left field comes Hyundai and the other Koreans (IMO) to cut the Japanese off at the knees. At that time, they were just ankle biters, but fast forward 30 years and they have product lines to match anyone’s in the business. Now, if they could just get distribution and marketing on the same page, we’d all be driving Genesis models.

    Nissan gets sick, the French come to rescue them. In the interim, Infiniti loses it’s direction, like an dementia patient driving west on I-70, going “somewhere”. Honda has an identity crisis with Acura and now is the near-luxury automotive personification of the Simpson’s Ralph Wiggum, wandering in circles in heavy traffic. Only Toyota has managed to keep it’s reputation intact, essentially by switching to CUVs for it’s volume model long before anyone else truly considered it. 20 years later, Cadillac is finally getting a decent stable of S/CUVs, maybe the marque will hold out a little longer.

    So, 30 years later, the big three German marques have re-taken the high ground, Lexus can’t crank out enough CUVs to sate demand (really, who buys a LS460?) and honestly, the rest are mostly boutique marques that only the die hards really care about.

    • 0 avatar

      “Mazda thought about it and (IMO) correctly read the situation.”

      I think they were gathering their funds for a while, and developing the failed Amati idea. They lost there because of their size and money issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      I think the Germans still make a lot of sh!t. Look at their reliability rankings, across the board it’s some of the worst.

      The German response to the Japanese was to cut content and quality because they could no longer just build cars at any price.

      • 0 avatar

        The Japanese and Germans are far ahead of everyone else. The South Koreans take the table scraps and Detroit pretends to be relevant. When GM left Europe it was a sign they have given up.

        • 0 avatar
          Peter Gazis

          akear

          In GM’s wake, PSA becomes a much stronger competitor in Europe. While GM is free to funnel most of its resources to the Americas and China. While growing its presence in the Middle East and South East Asia.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          akear,

          In terms of build quality and reliability, no.

          1) Japan manufactured and designed cars
          2) Japanese designed cars made in the US
          3) Korean cars designed and made in Korea
          4) Korean cars designed and made in US
          5) American cars built in Canada
          6) German cars designed and built in Germany/Euro zone
          7) American Cars built in US
          8) German cars built in US
          9) Everybody else

    • 0 avatar

      Chinese are coming, Chinese are coming. Take Koreans and multiply by 10. Shake down of Japanese brands is overdue and inevitable. Nissan, Mitsubishi and etc become irrelevant. Japanese car makers will not be able to compete with Chinese start ups. Future is still belongs to Asia but players will be different.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Inside: We’ve been hearing this for years now. The Chinese *are* here.

        We’re probably not going to see their home brands much here in North America. They’re skipping that low end, fighting for scraps stuff like the Japanese and the Koreans did and bought their way into prestige brands. Why re-invent the wheel?

        Once BEVs become common, we’ll probably see their native brands as high end vehicles taking on the Teslas and electrified Porsches. It’s a white space they can invade and own.

        The Chinese make so many parts and sub-assemblies for the ROW that they’ve effectively been here for a long time now. It’s a globalist’s dream: Chinese parts, shunted to Mexican assembly plants for NAFTA, Eurozone, African and Middle Eastern markets, as an example.

        You won’t be driving a Geely, just a Volvo owned by Geely.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Toyota is Buick 25 years ago…boring cars for oldsters.

  • avatar

    Notice they don’t even bother with the Q70.

  • avatar

    Both Infinity and Cadillac are the top second tier luxury car makers. Their annual sales are vertically identical at about 150,0000+ units. Last year Cadillac just beat Infinity in the sales race by 1000 vehicles. However, Cadillac was dealt a serious blow this year by the proposed cancellation of high-performance V-series. Also, Critics and the buying public have not been enamored with Cadillac’s current styling direction. However, if the third-row CT6 is a success maybe Cadillac will finally leave Infinity in its rear-view mirror.

    It is amazing how close these two luxury car makers are in annual sales. Every year they both seem to sell 150,000 vehicles in America.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Just give me a G20 touring. Manual trans, SR20DE, and a Limited Slip.

  • avatar
    V16

    Is Infiniti an asset (profitable) or a liability (cash drain) for the current Nissan?
    If these are the best of times (sales numbers) for the auto industry, what happens when the inevitable contraction comes calling?

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Nissan hasn’t made quality cars since the late 90s.

  • avatar
    Jason

    I was looking for a new car last year, I wanted a RWD coupe or sedan that wasn’t ugly or boring. Infiniti didn’t even warrant a trip to a dealer for me. They’re ugly and boring. Even the Redline. I bough a heavily discounted Kia Stinger, it’s flashier than I wanted but it’s fun and comfortable.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    My prediction is that the Infiniti brand will not survive the next economic downturn in the U.S.

    Honda should use the excuse of a recession to put Acura out to pasture, too. I have always felt the majority of Honda resents the Acura brand and sabotages it, hoping it fails. Doesn’t help that I thought I saw a new RDX in profile in a parking lot the other day. Oops, turns out it was an HR-V. Same low-end design language. Styling-wise Acuras do not look like they are worth even half of their MSRPs.

    If either of these brands closes up shop, there’s a built-in network of dealership facilities for Genesis to slide into.

    Sounds crazy, but remember the changes we saw during the last Great Auto Reckoning in 2008.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Doesn’t sound crazy to me. Infiniti and Acura could both disappear without much fanfare.

      The Infiniti QX50 in Edmunds’ long-term fleet was so hated they didn’t even want to drive it. It has the new variable displacement engine that eats gas and runs poorly.
      https://www.edmunds.com/infiniti/qx50/2019/long-term-road-test/

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      The division between Honda and Acura at a parts level is interesting. I’ve previously had a 2008 Accord and a 2004 Civic and found my local Honda dealer to be okay.

      I recently wound up with a 2007 TL with a bad HandsFreeLink module and thought I would order a replacement through said Honda dealer as the Acura dealer in town is neither convenient nor particularly respected.

      The parts guy at the Honda dealer said he couldn’t find a cross reference in their parts catalog and claimed he could get in trouble for trying to order an Acura part number. This of course despite that the stamping on the trim is “Honda”.

      I don’t recall ever having that kind of experience when trying to order Buick parts from a Chevy dealer.


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