In early July, Kalafer, son Joshua Kalafer, Charlie Smith, Flemington’s general manager of brands, and Kiley traveled to Franklin, Tenn., to meet with Mike Colleran, vice president of marketing and sales operations for Infiniti globally. Kiley said they were trying to get an idea of Infiniti’s short-term direction and Kalafer wanted to address issues with stair-steps.
Kalafer, who has been an Infiniti dealer for 28 years, said his store lost money four months this year because it didn’t hit the brand’s objectives. Through September, Infiniti’s new-vehicle sales nationally are down 16 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The Flemington store has seen new-vehicle sales slump 31 percent in the first nine months of the year. In September, the store sold just 15 new cars.
Kalafer said he saw pictures of future vehicles but that Colleran offered “nothing constructive” on short-term brand direction or stair-steps.
Jeff Pope, group vice president of Infiniti Americas, told Automotive News that while he was not at the meeting, the concerns Kalafer shared were already part of discussions the luxury brand was having with its dealer advisory board, which he meets with every six weeks.
Pope said the amount of the payout tied to dealers’ sales targets was reduced in April and more of the dollars became fixed. Infiniti also removed portions to cut complexity and because there was a concern of “bad dealer behavior” in some markets as stores chased sales objectives, Pope said.
“I think there was a point in time where sales objectives across the industry had a purpose and a place, and if they no longer serve that purpose and place, then we need to look at continuing to change with the environment around us,” Pope said.