KAMINOKAWA, Japan -- The boss says quality is key to Infiniti's future.
After years with Infiniti at the back of the premium pack, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Infiniti's parent, Nissan Motor Co., has ordered his team to nail quality once and for all as part of a push to catapult Infiniti into the top three brands of the premium market.
Buoyed by a favorable dollar-yen rate and an ambitious new top executive, Infiniti might have its best chance yet to crack those ranks. President Johan de Nysschen, poached last summer from Audi, aims to push into new segments, restore profitability to Nissan's luxury marque and fix lackluster quality rankings.
"Infiniti wants to disturb the status quo in the premium segment," de Nysschen said during a media event for the Infiniti Q50 sedan at Tochigi, the global hub of Infiniti manufacturing.
Ghosn has ordered de Nysschen to make the brand a top-tier premium player and boost global sales to 500,000 by 2016 from just 170,000 last year.
De Nysschen says expanding into new segments will build sales and brand image. But his first priority is to make Infiniti a more desirable brand that can command a higher price.
"That is more important than just hitting the sales numbers," he said.
Lifting quality is a crucial first step. Doing so should bolster the brand's expansion in China and Europe and push sales beyond his boss's 500,000 goal, de Nysschen said.
"All these together will certainly drive our growth," he said. "By the end of this decade we would not only breach the 500,000 mark but the 600,000 mark."
De Nysschen and his team outlined a checklist of measures to improve quality to compete against Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus. The goal is to lift Infiniti to within the top three in quality among all brands, premium and mass-market, by 2016.