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Afterthoughts: The Infiniti Identity


William Maley

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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.

 



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The thing is, pulling stunts does nothing to increase identity... and that's what the Eau Rouge, the Hong Kong move, and the Redbull team felt like... stunts.  None of it does anything to help forge an identity.... they may increase awareness, they may help image... but neither of these things are identity.  

 

There was no commitment from Infiniti to follow through.  Does anyone remember the IPL trim?  It stood for Infiniti Performance something something.... it was a specially tuned VQ V6 that got you a massive 18 additional horsepower. You can only get the IPL option on the Q60 convertible for roughly $13k over the base convertible...   Infiniti sold 5. 

 

Quick, what's the most identifiable Infiniti currently built.... remember you can't say G-series anymore.  The reality is that the next plausible answer is the badge engineered Infiniti Pathfinder..... I don't know the real name and can't be bothered to look it up.   That's the level of identity Infiniti has right now.... a semi-lux 4-door mini-van used primarily by real-estate ladies that no one can remember the name of and just refers to it by the Nissan equivalent name. 

 

And that's a problem for Infiniti....

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Infinity problem starts with the name, there is nothing here to last for ever. They really do need a new reboot of name, badging, design language, etc.

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Quick, what's the most identifiable Infiniti currently built.... remember you can't say G-series anymore.  The reality is that the next plausible answer is the badge engineered Infiniti Pathfinder..... I don't know the real name and can't be bothered to look it up.   That's the level of identity Infiniti has right now.... a semi-lux 4-door mini-van used primarily by real-estate ladies that no one can remember the name of and just refers to it by the Nissan equivalent name. 

 

And that's a problem for Infiniti....

 

I don't even think the QX60 is the most recognizable model (no, I didn't look that up. I saw one today). I think that honor falls to the QX80 (formally known as the QX56) because of its odd styling.

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Quick, what's the most identifiable Infiniti currently built.... remember you can't say G-series anymore.  The reality is that the next plausible answer is the badge engineered Infiniti Pathfinder..... I don't know the real name and can't be bothered to look it up.   That's the level of identity Infiniti has right now.... a semi-lux 4-door mini-van used primarily by real-estate ladies that no one can remember the name of and just refers to it by the Nissan equivalent name. 

 

And that's a problem for Infiniti....

 

I don't even think the QX60 is the most recognizable model (no, I didn't look that up. I saw one today). I think that honor falls to the QX80 (formally known as the QX56) because of its odd styling.

 

 

I was referring more to what model comes to mind that is currently being built.  

 

Say BMW and people will reply 3-series or 5-series

Say Mercedes and people will reply S-Class.

Say Audi and people will reply A4 or TT. 

Say Cadillac and people will reply Escalade.

Even say Lincoln and people will reply Navigator.

 

"Oh, that Infiniti version of the Pathfinder" and "That big ugly SUV, QX something" aren't exactly ringing endorsements of brand identity.

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Johan did nothing for Infiniti, changing names was a mistake, G37 was all they had.  It would be like Cadillac dropping Escalade for XT8. 

 

Infiniti has no soul, no identity, their SUVs are just Nissans, they mostly just have that V6, which now everyone has a good V6.  They had that 420 hp V8 a few years back, haven't done anything with it since, the styling is boring and bland.  How hard is it to turbo an engine?  Turbo the VQ V6 and put 2 turbos on that V8.  Also no halo car, no flagship car, 1 hybrid that no one buys.  Poor product planning, no clear brand image, inconsistent marketing all left them drifting aimlessly.  And Johan is bringing that expertise to Cadillac, let's see if he learned anything.

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Johan did nothing for Infiniti, changing names was a mistake, G37 was all they had.  It would be like Cadillac dropping Escalade for XT8. 

 

Infiniti has no soul, no identity, their SUVs are just Nissans, they mostly just have that V6, which now everyone has a good V6.  They had that 420 hp V8 a few years back, haven't done anything with it since, the styling is boring and bland.  How hard is it to turbo an engine?  Turbo the VQ V6 and put 2 turbos on that V8.  Also no halo car, no flagship car, 1 hybrid that no one buys.  Poor product planning, no clear brand image, inconsistent marketing all left them drifting aimlessly.  And Johan is bringing that expertise to Cadillac, let's see if he learned anything.

Plus keep in mind that Japan is all about being a team player and not rocking the boat. Most employees would go along with their boss who says this is awesome, the best, etc. I doubt anyone was willing to rock the boat and go against the upper executives who seem to be fine with the style, name, ultra conservative blah style of forgettable auto's.

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Speaking of Infinitis, my next door neighbor had a deep maroon '13 QX56 for the last two years, it disspeared a month ago or so, replaced by a '15 Cadillac Escalade ESV...which disappeared after 2 weeks and now he's got a black QX80.  

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Speaking of Infinitis, my next door neighbor had a deep maroon '13 QX56 for the last two years, it disspeared a month ago or so, replaced by a '15 Cadillac Escalade ESV...which disappeared after 2 weeks and now he's got a black QX80.  

WOW, he must like bland non inspiring autos. :puke:

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Speaking of Infinitis, my next door neighbor had a deep maroon '13 QX56 for the last two years, it disspeared a month ago or so, replaced by a '15 Cadillac Escalade ESV...which disappeared after 2 weeks and now he's got a black QX80.  

WOW, he must like bland non inspiring autos. :puke:

 

His fiancee has a Toyota Sequoia for hauling their kids..I think the Escalade may be his wife's car.    (He has two houses in the neighborhood, he can't divorce his wife as she is the co-owner of his business).

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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Speaking of Infinitis, my next door neighbor had a deep maroon '13 QX56 for the last two years, it disspeared a month ago or so, replaced by a '15 Cadillac Escalade ESV...which disappeared after 2 weeks and now he's got a black QX80.  

WOW, he must like bland non inspiring autos. :puke:

 

His fiancee has a Toyota Sequoia for hauling their kids..I think the Escalade may be his wife's car.    (He has two houses in the neighborhood, he can't divorce his wife as she is the co-owner of his business).

 

WOW, so lives with new girl and still married to wife due to business? Interesting life.

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I have never understood the motivation to distill an automotive brand down to 2 words. Why box oneself in? And besides that; the exact same car can mean a multitude of things to different folk.

 

More oversimplification / dumbing down of autos to the consumer, IE : "1/A/1A" means entry level, etc etc.

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I have never understood the motivation to distill an automotive brand down to 2 words. Why box oneself in? And besides that; the exact same car can mean a multitude of things to different folk.

 

More oversimplification / dumbing down of autos to the consumer, IE : "1/A/1A" means entry level, etc etc.

Today's marketing BS.

Today's view that the brand is the focus more than the model.

 

Eldorado is less than Cadillac. Cadillac is the key...

 

1950s.

- What do you drive?

>Eldorado.

- WOW! Just like Elvis!

( And everybody knew that not only an Eldorado was a Caddy, but they knew what was under the hood!)

 

Today

- What do you drive?

> A Bimmer. Dont know what kind, but its a BMW.

- I hear ya. Does it have the V6?

>Na, its the V4...good on gas.

Edited by oldshurst442
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I used to work with a guy that thought his BMW 540 had a V4 because it was a 540...

A very real anecdote that represents my view quite accurately.

 

Im sure he is glad to not have gone for the 535...a 3 cylinder powering a big car like that might have him questioning the slogan Ultimate Driving Machine.

 

And I take it in Europe, in 1994, the 525 was a 2 cylinder two stroke. Or is that a 5 stroke because of the 5 at the end of the 525?

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^ This is EXACT example of which I speak : dumbing things down to 1 or 2 (or 3) number/letters…. yet, incredibly, people are STILL confused! Does that mean OEMs should spoon-feed consumers with grade-school level advertising to 'splain' each of their 'systems'? I, for one, say NO!!" I say; give them "Eldorado" and let them sink or swim, as they may. But the current prevailing system only makes the (clueless) consumers AND the OEMs look like dolts.

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      2018
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      2018
      % chg
       
       
       
       
       
       
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      130,655
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      1,227,973
      1,344,597
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      3,229
      8,101
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      3,329
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      18,616
      25,389
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      CYTD
       
      2019
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      2019
      2018
      % chg
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
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      18,065
      -37.8
      117,708
      149,280
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      2,165
      3,690
      -41.3
      25,987
      34,763
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      Q60
      430
      662
      -35.0
      5,043
      9,071
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      Q70
      90
      329
      -72.6
      2,552
      4,479
      -43.0
      QX30
      50
      647
      -92.3
      3,229
      8,101
      -60.1
      QX50
      1,815
      3,329
      -45.5
      18,616
      25,389
      -26.7
      QX60
      4,113
      7,032
      -41.5
      43,162
      47,370
      -8.9
      QX80
      2,580
      2,372
      8.8
      19,113
      19,207
      -0.5
      Car
      2,685
      4,681
      -42.6
      33,582
      48,259
      -30.5
      CUV/SUV
      8,558
      13,384
      -36.1
      84,126
      101,021
      -16.7
    • By Drew Dowdell
      NISSAN DIVISION
      NOVEMBER
      NOVEMBER
      Monthly
      CYTD
      CYTD
      CYTD
       
      2019
      2018
      % chg
      2019
      2018
      % chg
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
      Nissan Division Total
      83,562
      96,427
      -13.3
      1,134,435
      1,213,942
      -6.5
      Versa
      2,825
      5,122
      -44.8
      63,331
      69,074
      -8.3
      Sentra
      11,546
      12,721
      -9.2
      173,585
      195,479
      -11.2
      Altima
      16,551
      12,077
      37.0
      190,051
      192,082
      -1.1
      Maxima
      2,273
      2,530
      -10.2
      31,689
      36,737
      -13.7
      LEAF
      1,140
      1,128
      1.1
      11,138
      13,048
      -14.6
      Juke
      0
      4
      -100.0
      11
      726
      -98.5
      370Z
      159
      271
      -41.3
      2,226
      3,266
      -31.8
      GT-R
      16
      23
      -30.4
      314
      513
      -38.8
      Total Car
      34,510
      33,876
      1.9
      472,345
      510,925
      -7.6
      Kicks
      3,634
      4,032
      -9.9
      54,070
      17,608
      207.1
      Frontier
      4,932
      6,278
      -21.4
      67,649
      72,154
      -6.2
      Titan
      2,052
      3,845
      -46.6
      29,598
      45,798
      -35.4
      Pathfinder
      4,819
      5,404
      -10.8
      59,797
      60,751
      -1.6
      Armada
      1,754
      2,044
      -14.2
      29,077
      29,776
      -2.3
      Rogue
      23,734
      31,860
      -25.5
      323,116
      369,587
      -12.6
      Murano
      5,349
      6,552
      -18.4
      63,174
      75,514
      -16.3
      Quest
      0
      0
      n/a
      0
      3
      -100.0
      NV
      1,315
      1,321
      -0.5
      18,303
      14,889
      22.9
      NV200
      1,463
      1,215
      20.4
      17,306
      16,937
      2.2
      Total Truck
      49,052
      62,551
      -21.6
      662,090
      703,017
      -5.8
       
      INFINITI
      NOVEMBER
      NOVEMBER
      Monthly
      CYTD
      CYTD
      CYTD
       
      2019
      2018
      % chg
      2019
      2018
      % chg
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
      Infiniti Total
      9,385
      14,086
      -33.4
      106,465
      131,215
      -18.9
      Infiniti Q50
      1,967
      2,819
      -30.2
      23,822
      31,073
      -23.3
      Infiniti Q60
      500
      590
      -15.3
      4,613
      8,355
      -44.8
      Infiniti Q70
      112
      372
      -69.9
      2,462
      4,150
      -40.7
      Infiniti QX30
      52
      416
      -87.5
      3,179
      7,454
      -57.4
      Infiniti QX50
      1,723
      3,009
      -42.7
      16,801
      22,060
      -23.8
      Infiniti QX60
      3,824
      5,151
      -25.8
      39,049
      40,338
      -3.2
      Infiniti QX70
      0
      8
      -100.0
      6
      950
      -99.4
      Infiniti QX80
      1,207
      1,721
      -29.9
      16,533
      16,835
      -1.8
      Total Car
      2,579
      3,781
      -31.8
      30,897
      43,578
      -29.1
      Total Truck
      6,806
      10,305
      -34.0
      75,568
      87,637
      -13.8
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
      NISSAN GROUP
      NOVEMBER
      NOVEMBER
      Monthly
      CYTD
      CYTD
      CYTD
        2019
      2018
      % chg
      2019
      2018
      % chg
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
      TOTAL VEHICLE
      92,947
      110,513
      -15.9
      1,240,900
      1,345,157
      -7.8
      Total Car
      37,089
      37,657
      -1.5
      503,242
      554,503
      -9.2
      Total Truck
      55,858
      72,856
      -23.3
      737,658
      790,654
      -6.7
      Selling days
      26
      25
       
      282
      281
       
       
      # # #
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