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PREMIUM RIDE: The Q30 is a very sporty car and is more a crossover coupe than a hatchback, says Infiniti president Roland Krueger.

New Infiniti hatch to drive growth

The compact Q30 gives upgraders an opportunity to enter the luxury segment.
Jul 9, 2016 5:50 AM

THE new Q30 hatchback will drive global growth for the Infiniti brand but more importantly for Singapore, this premium compact model is Infiniti's first COE Category A model.

Infiniti is the luxury division of Nissan, much like Lexus is to Toyota. But unlike Lexus, the Infiniti brand is less well known here. It didn't help that the marque was re-introduced here in 2012 with models that had large engines.

That changed with a 2.0-litre Q50 mid-sized sedan two years later. And for the Q30 to be launched here in the third quarter of this year, it will have a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine driving the front wheels through a seven- speed dual-clutch transmission.

Another version of this compact hatchback is the all-wheel-drive 2.0 turbo.

"The Q30 is a new segment for us," explains Roland Krueger, president of Infiniti Motor Co, in a recent interview at the Wearnes Automotive showroom on Leng Kee Road. With the Q50 for the large car segment, he says, the Q30 in the compact segment is "an opportunity as it is the entry to a luxury brand".

"The Q30 is a very sporty car. It is more a crossover coupe than a hatchback because it is designed in the direction of a crossover," says Mr Krueger, who expects the Q30 to win over customers from other brands as well as upgraders.

This is already happening in countries where the Q30 has been introduced. "This new car offers both opportunities for those stepping into the premium segment and for people moving from another luxury brand. We see this across the world," says Mr Krueger.

This mix of upgraders from mass Japanese brands and customers moving from other premium makes is close to a perfect 50:50 and helped Infiniti to grow 16 per cent last year.

Global sales in 2015 came to 218,495 units. It is China's fastest-growing premium brand - up 34 per cent - for the second year in a row, while European sales increased by 45 per cent. In the US, its biggest market, it grew 14 per cent last year.

So how important is the Singapore market, where volumes are a fraction of those in the US, China and Europe?

"Singapore is a very premium market because relative to the total market, it has many premium cars. We want to grow, and we have shown that we have grown faster than our competitors."

According to Mr Krueger, the Infiniti Q50 already accounts for 10 per cent of the premium sedan market.

"Looking at it from the premium segment, it is well-established in relation to the total market, so Singapore is an interesting market for us," he says.

Mr Krueger believes that what will set the Infiniti apart from other carmakers is its technology. One example is the Direct Adaptive Steering of the Q50, its global bestseller. This award-winning feature electronically transmits driver input to the front wheels through a steering sensor integrated with a compact motor.

"We are the only car company in the world to offer steer-by-wire. We also have Safety Shield and Lane Departure Correction for hands-free driving. Everybody talks about autonomous drive in the future but we offer partial autonomous drive today."

But as a luxury brand, does Infiniti's association with Nissan, a mass market make, affect customer perception of it?

"We are a global brand represented in the premium segment. We are an exclusive brand, we develop our business exclusively," Mr Krueger points out.

Nevertheless, he says Infiniti is part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and this is a "big benefit" to everyone "because within the alliance, we have access to technology and resources, we have efficiencies with solid processes within the company".

Mr Krueger says all that "has benefits to what we do".

"But at the same time, we focus on being brand exclusive and the customer and showroom experience is a premium experience."