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Infiniti Q50: Is It The Brand's ?Make or Break? Model In Australia? Photo:
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2014 Infiniti Q50 - Australia Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Feb, 06 2014 | 11 Comments

INFINITI Q50 AUSTRALIA

Yesterday, Infiniti Australia launched its new premium contender to the Australian market - its compelling new Q50 medium sedan.

This is the first all-new model from Infiniti to be released in Australia. And it comes, as we discovered, with enough firepower to make a mark in the hotly contested prestige segment.

It’s good enough, but can it do it?

To have any impact in this market, it has to jag buyers that would otherwise be looking at the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 (and recently introduced A3 Sedan), Mercedes C Class and CLA, and Lexus IS.

Which, of course, won’t be easy.

MORE: Infiniti Q50 Reviewed

In a brand-obsessed world, the German premium brands merely need put the badge on the rump to bring showroom traffic to their doors.

There is no such potent buyer recognition and market acceptance of the Infiniti badge here.

After a day at the wheel testing its mettle, including a vigorous high speed baptism-of-fire along a closed mountain road, we’re convinced that Infiniti has a very good car in its Q50.

Good enough, we think, to give the brand the foothold it needs.

BMW drove a wedge into the market with its E21 and E30 3 Series; that landmark car became the foundation stone for the brand’s success with Australian buyers.

Audi with the A3 and then A4; and Volkswagen’s return, after years of absence, with the Golf.

Can Infiniti do the same with the Q50? Peter Jones, Infiniti Australia’s Managing Director and CEO, would appear to be cautiously optimistic.

“The numbers (of cars) we’re selling today will not be the numbers we’ll be selling in the future,” he said.

“We understand it is going to take years to build this brand. We have to earn our part of the market.”

With a grand total of just 400 sales since the brand was relaunched here in 2012, and comments from Infiniti global boss Johan de Nysschen at the Detroit Motor Show that Infiniti sales in Australia were “unsustainable”, the Q50 may be ‘the make or break’ car for the brand here.

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It is entering, as Mr Jones concedes, a “hotly contested segment”, and perhaps soon to get hotter with the departure of the Commodore and Falcon.

There is nothing surprising, we think, in the latter day repositioning of the European premium brands to reach further and deeper into ‘family-buyer’ territory, into the $35k-$55k price segment.

But if Infiniti is to become a player (rather than forever on the bench), it will need a wider dealer presence than it currently can offer.

With just three dealerships on the Eastern seaboard - Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane - and a further two due to open soon in Perth and Adelaide, the dealer footprint is tiny.

And, at the moment, those three Infiniti dealers - carrying substantial investment in showrooms and service facilities - are likely to be feeling the pain of those barely-significant 400 sales.

Infiniti has the car in the Q50, we think, to begin remaking its destiny here.

It certainly looks the part, and the hybrid offers, as Infiniti GM Campbell York said, “V8 performance with four-cylinder economy”. It is also priced right.

And there is still the 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo to arrive (expected later this year), that will open the range priced below the 2.2d GT.

Make or break? Maybe, maybe not. But these have suddenly become interesting times for the Infiniti brand.

At the very least, the arrival of the Q50 is going to give buyers a little more choice in the premium segment, and, with it, a little more leverage in the showroom.

Tim O’Brien
TMR Managing Editor

 
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