It may not be a big surprise that Nissan's turnaround plan includes a new strategy for Infiniti.
The brand was introduced to the world at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 1989 alongside Lexus, and it never managed to get out of the shadow of Toyota's luxury line.
After two decades, Carlos Ghosn tried separating Infiniti's image — and underpinnings — from that of Nissan. The CEO known as "Le Cost Cutter" opened Nissan Motor's pocketbook and worked with Daimler to try to make it a true luxury brand.
Infiniti's annual U.S. sales in recent years — peaking at 153,415 in 2017 — suggest he may have been onto something, but the partnership petered out.
As our Hans Greimel reports in this issue, the post-Ghosn regime intends to revamp Infiniti as "Nissan-plus" — using shared platforms and powertrains. It's one of many instances of CEO Makoto Uchida and his team unwinding Ghosn strategies.
A rethinking of Infiniti is definitely in order: Last year's U.S. sales were down 21 percent from that 2017 peak. However, this plan risks diluting whatever brand equity Infiniti has. Execution will be crucial.
Consider Lincoln, which had offered up some uninspired Ford-based models in the past but is now improving its market position and pricing power with a "quiet luxury" take on Ford staples such as the Explorer and Edge. Still, it remains far down the leader board.
Tesla's emergence and sustained growth with a limited lineup — regardless of the eyebrow-raising behavior of its CEO — has reinforced the notion that the market has little love for leather-wrapped mediocrity.
Porsche has its esteemed place in the pantheon of great brands. The German giants have their pedigrees, and Lexus has Toyota's manufacturing capabilities behind it.
Every other brand faces an existential challenge to define itself with compelling style, technology, experience and value. In the cutthroat, highly lucrative arena of luxury marketing, a compelling identity is imperative.
Which is not to say that Infiniti's new strategy can't succeed. But luxury customers have a lot of choices, and no brand is promised a home in the market if it can't deliver some competitive advantage.