NEW YORK -- Infiniti dealers were incensed last week by Nissan Motor Co.'s decision to sell the high-performance GT-R sports car under the Nissan brand.
Infiniti lacks a sports car, and dealers desperately wanted the GT-R as a halo for the brand. It goes on sale in the United States in spring 2008.
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Motor, said this week at the New York auto show that every country except the United States wanted the redesigned model to be a Nissan. The U.S. unit could not prove that branding the car an Infiniti would generate more sales or profits, he said.
"I was very neutral" about the matter, Ghosn said.
The decision bothers dealer Ed Lennon, chairman of Infiniti's National Dealer Advisory Board. Lennon, owner of Circle Infiniti in West Long Branch, N.J., says the company never promised the vehicle to Infiniti. But he says the U.S. executive team favored the vehicle's becoming an Infiniti in this country.
"We thought that Ghosn would abide by the regional needs, but that didn't happen," Lennon says. "Now they need to tell us where we're going. We're very disappointed. We truly counted on that vehicle to be a halo for us."
Infiniti sells four car and two SUV models in this country. Sales are down this year on every model except the M sedan. For the first three months of this year, overall sales were down 9.0 percent to 29,187 units.
In November, Infiniti dealers are expected to get a redesigned G35 sedan, the marque's sales leader. The FX crossover was freshened earlier this year, but dealers say the company is mum on any other future products.
"We're limited; we're not a complete Tier 1 brand," Lennon says.
Jack Collins, chief product planner for Nissan North America Inc., acknowledges that the Infiniti lineup is narrow.
"There is more room for us in the luxury crossover segment," he says. "We have no convertible for the G35. That is another obvious opportunity. Our biggest constraint is manpower. We have the capital but not the manpower" to develop new products quickly.
Ghosn says Infiniti has more product now than it ever has, adding, "We will be giving them more product in the future."
The GT-R concept was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in October. The production model will be shown in Tokyo in 2007.
The GT-R is expected to sell for an estimated $65,000, with targeted sales of about 1,500 in this country. Sources say it could make more than 400 hp.
You may e-mail Kathy Jackson at [email protected]