LOS ANGELES -- Infiniti is demonstrating its emerging global market outlook this week by publicly revealing its new QX30 compact crossover at the Los Angeles auto show, and then, 48 hours later, also at the auto show in Guangzhou, China.
The company expects it to become a volume product as younger affluent buyers flood the premium market in coming years in both the United States and China.
Infiniti late Tuesday unveiled the production version of the new all-wheel-drive crossover just ahead of the L.A. show, hailing it as a critical missing piece of U.S. dealers’ portfolio -- a luxury-class compact for a segment that is booming.
“Our dealers can’t wait to get this vehicle,” says Randy Parker, the brand’s North American vice president. “They’re asking us for as many as we can send them, and we’re looking into how we can get enough for them.”
The model will go on sale early next summer, imported from Sunderland, U.K., and based on the Mercedes-Benz A-class platform architecture supplied by Daimler through its partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
Infiniti designer Hirohisa Ono designed the crossover, working out of Infiniti’s new dedicated studio in San Diego. Ono, who also designed the Nissan GT-R sports car before going to work across the aisle at Infiniti six years ago, is part of a growing network of global Infiniti designers.
In the past two years, Infiniti has opened dedicated studios in California, London and Shanghai. Including a large number of Infiniti design staffers in Japan, the luxury company now has between 250 and 300 designers working on Infiniti projects around the world, says Alfonso Albaisa, the company’s global executive design director.
“We’re going to need all of those people focusing on Infiniti in the next few years, as we grow around the world,” Albaisa says. “We have a lot of new products coming.”
Just before the QX30’s summer arrival, Infiniti will also receive the Q30, a hatchback version of the same compact Daimler architecture.
Parker expects that the crossover version will be the larger-selling model of the two.
“These are going to be volume products for us,” Parker says. “By 2020, the majority of new-vehicle customers will be Gen X and Gen Y consumers, many of them shopping in this segment.”
Roland Krueger, president of Infiniti worldwide, adds that China already presents the company with a glimpse of what is to come in the U.S. market. In China, he says, the average Infiniti customer is 10 years younger than the average customer in Infiniti’s established markets, including the United States.
Younger affluent Chinese buyers are more open to consider brands that are less established outside of China. Even without much in the way of new product for U.S. retailers this year, Infiniti sales are running 14 percent ahead of 2014 levels for the first 10 months of the year. In China, Krueger says, Infiniti sales are up by 38 percent this year over last year.
“It is an opportunity for us as we grow globally,” he says. “It’s why it’s so important to bring these products to the market.”