“We want to be a top-tier player in the premium segment. Which means we have to enlarge our product range,” Krüger says. “Second, we need to enlarge our footprint within several regions.”
The Infiniti brand has only had a solid footing in Europe for the past two years. It launched there in 2007, which was about the worst time possible to launch luxury cars — the economic crisis essentially stalled Infiniti’s European sales there for several years. The company has also had to adjust its model range to fit with what European buyers want, for instance by adding diesel engines and the smaller Q30/QX30.
“Q30 is targeted toward the biggest segment in Europe,” Krüger says, saying that the class accounts for about 900,000 sales there. “We have the right car for the right segment.”
But there’s still work to do on increasing the number of dealers and improving Infiniti’s brand recognition in Europe.
“To be honest, in Europe the brand is not recognized on the same level as any of the premium brands,” Krüger says. “It’s a long-term process. We should recognize that the competition is in every market for a much longer period of time.”
And how about in the U.S.?
The story is a little bit different in the U.S., where Infiniti has been selling cars for 26 years. Here, Krüger says the keys to growth include continuing a strong dealer experience, and making sure the product lineup stays fresher than it has in past years.
“We will see some more updates when it comes to engines, drivetrains,” he says. “We will also see some larger facelifts coming into the market in the next year.”
“I think we need to look into how we treat our model updates,” he says. “It will not come overnight, it’s a longer process, but we need to get this into better shape.”
Krüger wouldn’t be drawn on whether that meant more frequent updates, or more significant updates to its cars.
How the Q30 and QX30 fit into the lineup
The brand’s two small models are key to expansion with new, younger buyers in both the U.S. and in Europe. Krüger says that despite the cars being smaller, front-wheel-drive-based models, they won’t be outliers in the Infiniti range.
“If you look at the competition, it’s predominantly all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive,” he says. “What is important is that this car clearly handles and drives like an Infiniti. This is a true Infiniti in terms of ride and drive and handling, especially handling.”
Nor does Krüger see it as a negative that the cars are based on a Mercedes-Benz platform. Instead, he says that shows the benefits of the continued partnership between parent companies Daimler and Nissan.
“We are clearly benefiting from the alliance. We need to be humble, we are still a small company,” Krüger says. “It gives us economies of scale.”
Why crossovers makes sense
No matter the market, Infiniti recognizes the huge sales potential for crossover models of all sizes. That’s because customers are increasingly drawn to the higher driving position and wide practicality of those body styles. It is the brand’s biggest focus when it expands its range going forward, Krüger says: “We need to increase our presence in the SUV segment. That is absolutely clear.”
The reason is simple: drivers find crossovers and SUVs more appealing than sedans and coupes.
“It offers versatility. It is a car that you can utilize in more driving situations, commuting as well as on the weekend,” Krüger says. Shoppers also appreciate the higher driving position of these models: “It gives you a better view in traffic, and this is what customers like. They feel more comfortable, they feel more at ease with such a view.”