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Infiniti makes inroads into luxury car market

NISSAN’S assault on the local luxury car market has resulted in investments in two new Infiniti dealerships in Gauteng and the sale of 90 vehicles at retail since the launch of its global luxury automotive marque in South Africa in June.

Vinola Pillay, the senior marketing and communications manager for Infiniti, said on Wednesday that a further two Infiniti centres were scheduled to open before the end of this year in Durban and Cape Town. An estimated 150 direct jobs would be created as Infiniti centres were established countrywide, she said.

130912 Nissan luxury vehicles at Melrose Dealership.Photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi 8

Pillay, who declined to comment on how much was being invested in the separate dedicated facilities for the Infiniti brands, said the opening of the dealerships would obviously have a further positive impact on indirect job creation.

She said the second phase of the Infiniti dealership rollout programme involved the establishment of Infiniti centres in the smaller metropolitan areas of Polokwane, Nelspruit, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth by 2014.

“This will provide us with sufficient coverage to service our customers on a countrywide basis. Based on business viability, we currently do not plan to extend the Infiniti network into smaller markets.”

Pillay said the 90 retail sales reported since Infiniti’s launch in the country until the end of last month were in line with Nissan’s expectations.

“We are well on track with our plans to establish the brand. Early market feedback has been immensely positive and pleasing for us. Our focus for the first two years will be to establish the brand to embed a ‘total ownership’ experience that meets our customers’ expectations rather than focusing on short-term volume impact.

“We obviously have a strategy to grow volume substantially in the following years as we expand our model range and dealer network,” she said.

Nissan South Africa managing director Mike Whitfield said in April that the launch of the Infiniti in South Africa aligned the company with its Japanese parent firm’s plan to make Infiniti a global brand.

He said the launch of the brand was a critical part of Nissan SA’s growth plans and its objective to achieve double-digit growth in volumes.

Nissan SA is forecasting volume growth of 10 percent to 12 percent this year compared with overall market growth of 6 percent to 8 percent.

Five Infiniti models have been launched locally. They are the Infiniti FX performance sports utility vehicle (SUV), the EX luxury compact SUV, the sporty G Coupe, the G Cabriolet and the M luxury sedan. The prices range from R595 000 for the EX30d to R856 000 for the FX50 S Premium.

Of the two dealerships already established, one is in Melrose, Johannesburg, owned by Ryan Holmer and Jason and Larry Nestadt. The other is the Infiniti Centre in Hatfield, Pretoria, owned by the BB Group, a family business with over 50 years vehicle retail sales experience that was originally located in Polokwane and is headed by Arnold du Plessis.

The Infiniti Centre in Durban will be owned by listed vehicle retailer Combined Motor Holdings and the Cape Town centre by the SAFY Automotive Group.

The Infiniti brand is sold in 35 countries covering more than 90 percent of the global luxury automotive market. About 1.3 million Infiniti units have been sold since its launch into the US market in 1989.

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