For the past week, I have been driving an Infiniti Q50 and for the most part, I have liked it. The model has the makings of an excellent compact luxury car with a powerful V6, expressive exterior, and a nice balance of sport and comfort for the ride. I don't even mind the direct-steer system which replaces many of the mechanical parts for an electrical system that turns the wheel based signals from the input on the wheel. But as I driving the Q50, I felt something was missing. It was only when I writing some notes on it that I figured out what was missing, an identity. Not only for the car, but for Infiniti itself.
In psychology, identity is used to describe the items that make a person unique. Our little things and quirks that make us who are. For automakers, figuring out what they want to their identity to be is a crucial piece. Not only does it bring people into your showroom, but it also gives you a selling point. Something you can draw on in your promotions to the final sale.
This is a key part for luxury automakers since identity is one of the main selling points. A luxury car is seen as a statement of identity - this is who I am and this is why I drive this car.
For many luxury automakers, figuring out their identity is easy. Just off the top of my head, I was able to put an identity for most of the luxury players.
- Audi: Modern Design
- BMW: Driving
- Mercedes-Benz: Quality
- Jaguar: Luxury and Sport
- Cadillac: The American BMW
- Lincoln: American Luxury
Trying to define the Japanese luxury automakers has and is still an issue. Lexus is the only one that you could say has an identity - luxury with reliability. Acura is hedging their bets on technology. But Infiniti hasn't been able to come with something they could say 'this is our identity'.
Consider when Nissan was launching the brand back in 1989 to 1990. The first commercials showed forests and birds, but nothing about the car. It was hard to tell if Infiniti was a car or a nature preserve. Infiniti did change this with later ads, but there wasn't that hook. Something that could say 'I bought an Infiniti for this reason'.
Now it seemed Infiniti was possibly going in the right direction when they brought on Johan de Nysschen back in 2012 to help get the company going in the right direction. Aside from the 'Q' nomenclature, de Nysschen brought a number of changes to the automaker; moving the headquarters to from Yokohama, Japan to Hong Kong; partnering with the Red Bull F1 racing team, setting up a number of studios around the globe, and creating the wild Q50 Eau Rouge which was rumored to go into production. It seemed that company was going in the right direction for creating an identity.
Then in 2014, de Nysschen left to take on another automaker - Cadillac. Since then, plans for a high-performance Q50 has been shelved and it seems Infiniti is lost, wondering what their next move should. This isn't a good thing when it seems every other luxury competitor is passing you by.
With two new models over the horizon - the Q30 and QX30 - Infiniti should take some time out and figure out who they are. Then they might have a real chance to make a stand in the marketplace.
Maybe for some inspiration, they could watch this commercial for the J30 sedan.