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The Lockup: Why Infiniti Isn't Taken Seriously as a Luxury Car Company

Joshua Is a self-proclaimed Driving God with an almighty Forza Game Rank.

Infiniti's premium status has been hampered by performance shortfalls.

Infiniti's premium status has been hampered by performance shortfalls.

Introduction

In 1989, Japan wanted in on the luxury car boom, so in response to BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Nissan introduced Infiniti. Infiniti hoped to achieve premium status by infusing its vehicles with spirited performance and additional luxury content. At least that was what was supposed to happen. Infinitis are still heavily based on their Nissan parent company-related vehicles, so mixing in a blend of comfort, style, and performance should have been no issue. The problem is, 28 years later, Infiniti continues to make stylish and comfortable cars and SUVs, but the performance is significantly lacking.

Downfall: Under Siege

The downfall of Infiniti happened between 2010 and 2014. This was the exact point that BMW fully committed to mixing luxury and performance in spades. And the industry was never the same again. Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and to an extent, Lexus, quickly rallied to follow suit. For those who don't quite understand what exactly happened, I'll explain.

Previously, BMW had been all luxury and only a few performance cars here and there. But in 2010, BMW started filling their lineup with more and more M performance division cars, truly proving that M is the most powerful letter in motorsport. The "Ultimate Driving Machine" wasn't done, and now in the present day 2017, BMW is the reason why Mercedes-Benz and Audi have unreasonably full rosters and why players like Cadillac, Alfa Romeo, Lexus, Lincoln, and Volvo are going through brand renaissances to get better. So where is Infiniti? The answer to that is simply lying dormant in self-confusion and a lost sense of identity.

Why the Lack of Effort?

Johan de Nysschen put it best and summarized the main problem with Infiniti in three sentences.

“Tell any Cadillac or Audi engineer ‘build me a 560hp sports sedan’ and you have to reign them in. At Infiniti, it seems easier to push water uphill. More enthusiasm for ‘driver’s aids’, apparently, than ‘driver’s cars’, in some quarters, it would seem.”

Infiniti has lost its identity as a performance—luxury division. And that's not just me trying to make Infiniti a company like Lexus, but what Infiniti actually labels themselves as. And Infiniti doesn't seem to have the need for speed. Yes cars like the IPL existed, but that was really just an exterior package. And then you have the current Q50/Q60 Red Sports, which is a step in the right direction, but when you add it all in, an Audi S4 or BMW 340i M-Sport is just as fast, for just as much money, with a better interior and less HP. And speaking of HP specs, an Infiniti Q50 3.0T Sport should be the actual trim level competing with the aforementioned Audi and BMW. The Red Sport should be targeting The BMW M3. But let's not even mention that, that's a one-sided slaughter, in both stats, price, and practicality, in the M3s favor.

Infiniti doesn't offer a solid option to take on the full-size luxury car segment. The Q70 is there but there is a difference between living and existing right? Speaking of the Q70, it is a car that isn't exactly sure if it wants to be a full-sized car or a saloon. And it frankly fails at both. It's a cumbersome car in every way. And the best way to put it is that it doesn't feel comfortable in its own skin. And when it comes to SUVs, there is always something wrong here or there. Infiniti isn't accepting the 'sport' in sports performance lineup. They constantly tease a push in that direction but never come through in the end.

Conflict of Interest?

But why does Infiniti have such a hard time making drivers' cars? They have the luxury part down but in terms of making a car that you don't mind driving, ahhh, it’s a work in progress. And it seems to me that this is an occurring problem within the company. Whether it's the board or a higher-up shooting an idea down, or the company just failing to do something the right way, there is a discord in the way things are done. This is even more baffling when you realize that Infiniti once had Sebastian Vettel as head of Performance and is owned by Nissan, who makes the Fairlady Z (370Z) & Godzilla (GT-R), and owns the NISMO performance division. So why can't Infiniti develop a good driving car? It doesn't make sense to me quite frankly and I can't come up with a good reason why. But there is a saving grace to this.

In the grand scheme of things, Infiniti is a smaller shark in a sea of great whites. Long evolved from the fish they were once based on, but not quite the apex predators. Nowhere near the top of the food chain. And even though it’s a shark with the potential to be dangerous, it still gets hunted by bigger sharks. This is the reality Infiniti currently lives in. I cannot talk about overseas markets but in the United States, Infiniti is not taken seriously by the apex predators in the niche. The BMWs, Audis, & Mercedes-Benzs of the world don't necessarily see Infiniti as a threat. And it shows in sales, in comparison tests, reviews, etc. Infiniti is just barely competitive. But of course, me saying this isn't enough so I'll prove it.

Infiniti’s inferiority to the Germans shows in the sales figures. Let's compare Infiniti to the industry leader in Mercedes-Benz. The following charts are Infiniti’s sales from 2014 to now and their market shares from 2014 to now compared to Mercedes-Benz. December of 2017 is not over yet, so numbers are Not Available or N/A. Blue is 2014, Red is 2015, Orange is 2016 & Green is 2017.

What these charts show is that Mercedes destroys Infiniti by a landslide. But we knew that coming in. The interesting story here is this: Infiniti experienced one of its best sales months (as of this writing) recently. For the most part, Infiniti averages between 8 and 12 in sales. And that's decent, but Infiniti shouldn't be aiming for decent. That jump in sales can be seen as an anomaly, or it can be seen as hope. Potential. But it's untapped and that's the sad reality. Infiniti may never grow into its own fully. But one can dream.

© 2017 Joshua Nightshade