Nissan Motor Co will target annual sales of 25,000 vehicles in 2013 for its high-end Infiniti brand in Europe, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said on Tuesday, unveiling a cautious goal in the world's toughest luxury car market.
Japan's third-biggest automaker, held 44 per cent by Renault is launching its Infiniti brand, sold mainly in North America now, across Europe starting in October, following the lead of Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus brand nearly 20 years ago.
"I think we are mature enough now, strong enough in some markets to be able to launch it today, and to have the patience and wisdom to not push too much for volume," Ghosn, who also is head of Renault, told Reuters in an interview at the Infiniti's launch event during the Geneva auto show on Tuesday.
While Infiniti has a significant and growing following in the United States, the world's biggest luxury car market where it debuted 20 years ago, it will come up against well-established premium brands such as BMW Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and Audi AG on their home turf.
After 17 years, Lexus sells just 50,000-60,000 cars in Europe. In a first for the brand, Infiniti unveiled a product outside North America, in a world premiere in Geneva.
The second-generation FX50 sport utility vehicle, has a 5-litre engine generating 390 horsepower.
"It's very unique, has a lot of character and we think Europeans are going to like it," Ghosn said.
While Ghosn acknowledged the battle for Infiniti would be hard-fought, he expressed confidence that the brand would win over its target audience of younger drivers looking for uniqueness in the normally tradition-oriented premium segment.
"We have a very young customer base, people looking for something very unique in terms of design on top of driving experience," he said.
Infiniti boosted its global sales by more than 12 per cent in 2007, a year that Ghosn said was "not particularly favourable" for car purchases in the main US market.
Unlike Lexus, which started out in Europe sharing dealerships with the mainstay Toyota brand, Infiniti will have exclusive and high-performing dealers from the start. It will initially have 25 dealers in 15 countries, and in two or three years, have nearly 80 dealers, Ghosn said.
"It's going to remain very selective."
The Infiniti line will initially offer four models, the G37 sedan, G37 coupe, EX37 coupe crossover and the FX50. From 2010, Infiniti will add clean diesel and hybrid options in Europe, Ghosn said. (Reuters)
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