Infiniti sees 2012 sales of 200,000
Brand will build more vehicles outside of Japan
BEIJING -- Infiniti expects record global sales of more than 200,000 units this fiscal year and sees more overseas production coming to Europe and possibly the United States.
That would be a 33 percent increase from the 150,000 units sold in the fiscal year ended March 31, mostly in America. Infiniti's U.S. sales in calendar 2011 were 98,461, and through March are down 6 percent.
Andy Palmer, who heads Nissan Motor Co.'s Infiniti unit, said most of this year's growth will come from China.
"This year we'll probably sell more than 200,000 units," Palmer said in an interview at the Beijing auto show. "That's the first time in our history. The needle's starting to move."
Infiniti's goal is annual sales of half a million units by 2017. And increased capacity outside Japan is key to achieving the rest of the plan.
Nissan has announced it will build two China-specific Infiniti models in China starting in 2014.
More overseas output will follow, especially as Infiniti tries to offset the foreign exchange hit it takes on vehicles made in Japan. Next up will be the entry-level sedan based on the Etherea concept shown last year at the Geneva auto show.
That car, due in North America as early as next year, won't come from Japan, Palmer said. "In all probability it will be made in Europe," he said.
In North America, the shift began this year with the production of the JX crossover at Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant.
That's the first Infiniti made outside Japan since the QX56 SUV was moved back to Japan from Canton, Miss., early last year.
The JX is expected to be Infiniti's No. 2 seller in the United States, behind the G sedan.
But the G is made in Tochigi, Japan. And Palmer said the next-generation G will stay where it is.
Infiniti's upcoming electric vehicle, a production version of the LE Concept shown this year at the New York auto show, also could be bound for the United States. It goes on sale in 2014.
Palmer says that the Infiniti electric will be made at only one plant, and that North America is expected to be the car's biggest market. It shares its platform and drivetrain with the Nissan Leaf electric.
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