Infiniti Is Getting Absolutely Creamed

Illustration for article titled Infiniti Is Getting Absolutely Creamed

It’s not a good time for Infiniti. The company’s lineup has received little praise from critics, its headquarters is now back in Japan after a confounding (Johan-directed) move to Hong Kong and—worst of all—it is getting absolutely creamed in the U.S. And with European operations already abandoned, it’s hard to see how the brand is going to turn itself around.

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According to the company’s September sales report and spotted by Carscoops, Infiniti sales plunged 43.9 percent in September. I’ve used the word “plunged” many times covering stocks and car sales, but never has it seemed quite this accurate. That result is brutal and makes the combined Nissan and Infiniti 24 percent drop seem palatable by comparison.

We noted earlier this week that car sales are falling fast across the board, but no one fell harder than Infiniti. Fiat managed a similarly bad 38 percent decline, but Infiniti still had the toughest September.

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Every single Infiniti nameplate had a double-digit sales drop. Worst was the QX30 with an 83.2 percent drop, but that’s largely because the model has been discontinued. But the rest of the story is grim, too. The Q70 cratered 60.2 percent, Q60 sales dove 59.8 percent, QX50 sales dropped 51.1 percent and QX80 deliveries were down 50.4 percent.

When a 50.4 percent drop is your 5th-worst number for the month, you’re in trouble. Most concerning, though, is probably the QX50 sales drop. That’s the brand’s newest product. It features the much-hyped variable compression engine and exists in the hottest luxury segment there is right now. If you’re crashing there, with an all-new product, it’s not a good sign.

And boy, does Infiniti need some sort of good sign. The company left the European market earlier this year after disappointing sales. In shutting down its European operations Infiniti axed the QX30, leaving its product lineup even less filled out.

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With the European market ceded and the variable compression engine looking like less of a gamechanger than Infiniti may have expected, the company is betting its hopes on two things: the U.S. market, where it has always been focused, and electrification.

Right now, though, the company has yet to take any leadership in electrification. And since U.S. sales of even its newest model are in freefall, it’s hard to see how the company will make a sustainable business case for its future.

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Update 10:55 p.m.: A spokesman for Infiniti provided the following comment on the company’s September results:

Infiniti is in transition as we move toward a new era of electrification, which we announced early last year. For the 2020 model year, we have made a significant upgrade to our InTouch twin-screen infotainment system, and those vehicles are heading to our showrooms. We announced in August that a new QX55 sport utility coupe will arrive next summer, and a few months after that, we’ll have an all-new core (higher volume) vehicle that will be introduced. Infiniti’s new generation of vehicles, based upon electrified platforms, are certainly on the horizon in just a couple of model years. Those will be fully electric, or fully electric with a small gasoline engine that’s there simply to help charge the batteries. With our Q, QX and Qs Inspiration concept vehicles, we have given consumers a clear indication of what Infiniti showrooms will look like in a very short time. Overall, we are quite excited, optimistic and most of all, focused on our future.

Mack Hogan is Jalopnik's Weekend Editor, but you may know him from his role as CNBC's car critic or his brave (and maligned) takes on Twitter. Most people agree that you shouldn't listen to him.

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DISCUSSION

stormin-norman
Stormin-Norman

I used to sell Infinitis for a short period of time and I completely understand why this is happening. Infiniti has 4 major issues:

1) The majority of their lineup is horrendously old. Even if the product isn’t “old” by Infiniti standards, it’s still stuffed with outdated tech. The Q60 is a perfect example. It’s one of their newest models, but it still features a top screen from the mid 2000's and the lower screen for the infotainment is also horrendously outdated (made it’s intro on the Q50 5 years ago). I don’t expect this to change anytime soon either; when they finally stopped production of the G37/Q40, I vividly recall stating in a sales meeting “Bye G37, we’ll miss you. You’ve lasted longer than most marriages.”

2) Infiniti has strayed from the strategy that gave them their resurgent success in the early 21st century. Why did G35 coupes and sedans sell so well (along with the FX35)? Because they were vehicles that offered excellent materials, superior performance, and bold styling (for their time) for a lower price than their competitors. In 2004, Infiniti’s FX35 offered 4wd, full leather interior (You could get an ORANGE interior with real aluminum trim), bold styling and awesome performance (for it’s day, the base FX did 0-60 in 7 seconds with a 5AT). It can be argued that the G35 was the car that FORCED BMW to develop the N54 because they were getting absolutely slaughtered by Infiniti at the time.

3) The overall quality and feel of their products no longer matches what they offered in the mid 2000's. My sister has had three (3) G-coupes. Two of which were the second gen G37/Q60 and the latest one is a 2018 Q60. While the powertrain is surprisingly good, the interior has fallen behind Infiniti’s mid-2000s offerings. Materials are cheap, standard equipment is down (It’s 2019 and this $45,000 luxury coupe doesn’t come with heated seats, memory seats, or navi) and frankly, the infotainment is old AND glitchy. 

4) Infinitis are primarily leased. Unfortunately, Infiniti’s leasing hierarchy doesn’t match their retail pricing hierarchy. A QX30 should not be significantly more expensive than a Q50. However, that’s exactly what is happening. The only car that Infiniti is selling now is the Q50, and that’s because it’s cheaper to lease than a Golf GTI at $320 a month....