Nissan's Restructuring Throws Infiniti Under The Bus

Illustration for article titled Nissans Restructuring Throws Infiniti Under The Bus
Photo: Infiniti
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Infiniti just got screwed by Nissan, North American supply lines are all messed up, but Europe’s May car sales indicate recovery is coming. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, June 1, 2020.

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1st Gear: Infiniti Now Just Finiti

Not too long ago, there was a dream to stop kicking Infiniti around like it’s been for the last 30 years and actually try and do something dumb like take on Mercedes-Benz with engineering and quality, and not just marketing.

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But that would have meant investment in unique platforms and parts, all-new engineering, and a lot of doubling up on the work Nissan already does with its cars.

And given the current state of Nissan, and the world on fire around it, it’s not hard to see why Nissan is.. not going that route with Infiniti anymore. Instead, they’ll be even closer-related to their non-premium siblings.

Here’s more from Automotive News:

COO Ashwani Gupta outlined the Infiniti revamp last week as Nissan unveiled a revised four-year midterm plan.

Nissan’s wider restructuring road map cuts billions in costs, slashes production capacity and trims the lineup to reemerge as a smaller, more profitable company. But part of that will mean high-end Infiniti will share platforms, powertrains and assembly plants with the mass-market Nissan brand in a move to boost product development efficiencies by as much as half.

Under the shuffle, Infiniti’s trademark rear- wheel-drive coupe and sedans — epitomized by the Q50, Q60 and Q70 — may eventually die off. In their place would come a Nissan platform, possibly pulled from the Altima or Maxima sedans, that accommodates the company’s e-Power hybrid setup.

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Considering I don’t remember any of those three current sedans particularly knocking anybody’s socks off, I’m not sure anyone will miss the current Infiniti. I also don’t think anyone would be particularly interested in more expensive versions of the Nissan cars even that brand is struggling with.

We’re just going from a half-assed job to a no-assed job.

2nd Gear: Leaving Mexico Behind

While the U.S. outlook for the novel coronavirus outbreak begins to improve and some industries return to work, Mexico and its big pool of supplier manufacturers are still at the height of their local outbreak and being left behind by global businesses. From Auto News:

Mexican parts suppliers face liquidity issues that could get worse as orders stack up. Local auto sales have collapsed. Health experts don’t agree on Mexico’s new phase of reopening the economy. And with coronavirus infections spiking, Mexico’s restart may be vulnerable to another shock that could ripple through U.S. and Canadian auto factories.

The complexity of the moment can be glimpsed in the Mexican state of Puebla, which is home to a sprawling Volkswagen assembly complex, a 4-year-old Audi plant and hundreds of suppliers. While Mexico’s federal government approved a May 18 date for the country to start a gradual return to auto manufacturing, Puebla Gov. Miguel Barbosa is resisting at the state level because of virus cases there. Puebla is now targeting mid-June for a restart.

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Most Mexican suppliers restarted last week, and U.S. production is slowly returning. But with Mexico’s outbreak cases still at a pitch, the supply lines from Mexico are not going to be normal for a long time.

3rd Gear: It’s Carlos Ghosn Or The Entire Lebanese Economy

Carlos Ghosn may have made it away from Japanese authorities detaining him over allegations of financial misconduct while boss of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but his new home of Lebanon needs financial help, and Japan may hold the former auto exec as ransom with the IMF.

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From Al Arabiya:

However, Ghosn’s fate might have become intertwined with talks over a potential IMF bailout, seen as a vital step for the government if it wants to help stop the deterioration of the country’s economy, according to Nissan’s lawyer via Arab News.

“For Japan to agree on that they want the Lebanese authorities to extradite Ghosn, otherwise, they won’t provide Lebanon with financial assistance. Japan is one of the IMF’s major contributors … if Japan vetoes Lebanon then the IMF won’t give Lebanon money except after deporting Ghosn,” Nissan’s legal representative in Lebanon Sakher El Hachem told Arab News.

The claim suggests that Japan is prepared to use its influence within the IMF to undermine any bailout talks unless Ghosn is extradited.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government is reportedly seeking $10 billion from the IMF to help plug the holes in country’s finances. It also hopes that the reforms required for the bailout would help unlock a further $11 billion of aid pledged at the 2018 CEDRE conference.

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Can you imagine not being an elected official and being the blame for holding your country’s economy at ransom? Pretty nuts, but I bet nothing happens to him.

4th Gear: Europe’s Car Market Crawls Back

Good news! New car registrations in Europe are slowly climbing, which means people are buying cars again!

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From Bloomberg:

Europe’s car industry showed tentative signs of a recovery in May with some French and Spanish buyers braving visits to reopened showrooms.

New car registrations fell 50% in France year-on-year, CCFA, the nation’s automotive-industry group, said in a statement on Monday. The drop was an improvement over April’s 89% plunge. Spain also showed a slight comeback.

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Renault claimed it saw a similar rise in customers at its dealers, but that many of them were picking up cars they had already ordered before or during the outbreak. It’s still too early for a clearer roadmap to recovery, it seems.

5th Gear: Top Of Their Game

If you want to see the coronavirus impact on a company that was doing really well before the outbreak, look at Hyundai and Kia. From Reuters:

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) said on Monday its provisional May sales fell 39% year-on-year to 217,510 vehicles globally, as the coronavirus outbreak continued to hit demand in key markets.

Sales were, however, up about 30% from 167,693 vehicles in April.

Sounds like Hyundai and Kia may be fine through all this, regardless.

Reverse: Timing

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Neutral: What Would You Do With Infiniti?

Well?

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DISCUSSION

I own a 2009 G37. It is a reasonably priced, fast, reliable, moderately attractive, good handling, and overall fun to drive four door sedan (compared to a Camry). My prescription is for them to go back to building things like the G37 - quality, inexpensive, RWD alternatives to the Germans.