Infiniti, Nissan’s premium brand, is to pull out of Western Europe and concentrate on sales in the US and China.
The brand has struggled to make an impact in Europe, selling just 5,800 units in 2018 - a drop of just over 50% compared to 2017. The company is stronger in the US and Asian markets and believes that pulling out of Europe will allow it to focus on growth in more popular markets.
As part of the plan, Infiniti will also electrify its model portfolio from 2021 onwards, while discontinuing diesel options. The company will place more focus on its SUV line-up in North America, bring five new vehicles to China over the next five years, work to improve quality of sales and residual values, and realise more synergies with Nissan Motor Company.
The news will come as a further blow to Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which will cease production of Infiniti’s Q30 and QX30 by mid-year, threatening 250 jobs. The factory is already reeling over the pulling of planned X-Trail production, with manufacturing of the model remaining solely in Japan. The company will lose promised UK funding as a result of this move.
While there was an element of concern over the UK’s issues surrounding Brexit in the X-Trail decision, the news that Infiniti production is to cease is not related to the country’s ongoing political issues but is a direct result of the full European withdrawal of the brand.
In a statement, the company says: ‘In anticipation of its planned withdrawal from Western Europe in early 2020, Infiniti is working to find alternative opportunities for any employees who would be affected, consulting with employee representatives where necessary and identifying opportunities for transition and training support where appropriate. Once this is complete, we will work with retailers to conclude the end of franchise agreements, providing the support and services necessary to ensure a smooth transition.
‘Infiniti retail operations are to remain operational until a tailored transition plan is put in place for continued aftersales services, including vehicle servicing, maintenance and warranty repairs.’
Infiniti spokesman Trevor Hale highlighted that the Japanese brand has struggled to meet emissions and other regulatory requirements in Europe, especially the new stringent Euro 6 rules. ‘The commercial reality for Infiniti in Western Europe is that there is simply no visibility of a viable and sustainable business, especially given the regulatory challenges,’ he said.