OKOHAMA, Japan — Peyman Kargar, a longtime Renault executive, took over as chairman of Infiniti Motor Co. on June 1. He spoke with Asia Editor Hans Greimel about the premium brand's business strategy, his priorities as its leader and the move of the brand's headquarters back to Japan, among other topics. Here are edited excerpts.
Infiniti boss focuses on 'sustainable' brand
Q: What does it mean for Infiniti to be a sustainable business?
A: It means strong customer satisfaction, dealer coverage and premium products with luxury experiences and a profitable business. A lot of good things are in the pipeline that are not visible today. We want to make sure that the next steps are going to be really solid and not coming back to us having aging models.
For a long time, Infiniti wasn't a profitable business within Nissan. Has that changed?
We don't normally talk about the profitability of each brand. It depends how you spread the fixed cost of the company on the different models.
What have been your first steps as global brand boss?
I started, from a few days ago, making a diagnosis of what the current situation is, what is in the pipeline, what has been done in the past, what is coming in coming months, what is the potential of the brand. So the diagnosis is not at all finished. It's just starting.
We have a plan, and my duty is to make sure this plan is going to give a sustainable premium brand. And then, my diagnosis will come to adjust this plan if necessary. I'm trying to target December or January.
What benefits does Infiniti reap from moving its offices back to Yokohama from Hong Kong?
I'm meeting my colleagues, all the executive vice presidents in Nissan, because I'm sitting here with them. They are on board much more than in the past because now Infiniti is back home. If you put a premium brand headquarters far from the heart of the company, it's like sending your son to another country far from you. It doesn't mean you don't love him. But you would support him less because you don't see him every day. And even if you want to support, you don't know how.
I'm here, meeting them every week. So that's a completely different story. I'm going to be able to leverage the full strength and resources of the Nissan company. It's not just moving people from Hong Kong to Yokohama.
To what degree will Infiniti be hit by the cost cutting and downsizing in Nissan's new midterm plan?
Infiniti has not been mentioned because we are not going to shrink or reduce the lineup of Infiniti. We have a huge customer satisfaction asset already in place. We are at the top of the list in terms of customer satisfaction. That's a big asset, and we need to protect it.
Also, we have dealers who are fully committed to the brand. I have started to get in contact with them. I had a nice call this morning with U.S. dealers. I'm meeting with them, and I'm listening to them.
What kind of differentiated powertrains will future Infiniti vehicles have?
We will have a high-performance, exclusive version of e-Power. The name is not yet completely decided, and we will disclose it in a few months. We will have more horsepower — much more — to represent Infiniti because that's one of the ingredients of the DNA of Infiniti.
And the second point is the serenity — the silence on board. Not only the powertrain, but the body. In the plan, we will have an ICE offering, high-performance e-Power and a pure EV.
What is the hardest part of doing business in the auto industry?
It's when you don't see what the market and the customers are requesting, and when you don't have a strong conviction in your own DNA and what you can bring to the world.
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