Nissan’s choice of Infiniti models designed to tempt Western European premium car buyers away from their more mainstream and predictable German models always felt ill-conceived. The initial lack of Infiniti diesel engine options (when Derv was still all the rage), plus bland, instantly-forgettable mid-size saloons based on boring domestic Japanese Nissan models, such as the M saloon (later and confusingly renamed the Q70, if you can remember either model without having to Google it) struggling to compete with established segment leaders such as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Throwing your Infiniti car keys onto the bar at your local tavern would probably fail to elicit any particular response from your chums, whereas a set of Audi, BMW or Mercedes keys would either lead to admiration from most, or loathing in the minority of cases. But for the Infiniti, phah… Nobody really knows (or cares) what the Brand is or what it stands for. With virtually zero marketing support – apart from Formula 1 Red Bull and more recently Renault sponsorship – the car buying public never really got past the ‘an Infiniti, what is that?’ conundrum.
When Lexus launched onto the European scene 30 years ago, the early consumer perception of this ‘invented’ brand quickly switched from being ‘an upmarket Toyota’ to a desirable premium brand in its own right, helped by superior car and customer care quality to the established European marques, regularly topping reliability and consumer satisfaction surveys such as those conducted by J.D. Powers et al.
For Infiniti though, the Brand’s marketeers half-hearted efforts failed to capitalise on the (high) quality of its products from launch, just as they failed to create an exciting and aspirational profile and unique identity for the marque. Some (but not all) of its models could have convincingly lived up to an exciting and aspirational Infiniti image, especially the distinctive and (should have been) desirable FX (later QX70), which at the time of its introduction was one of the best and most stylist premium SUVs available on the market, even with the initial lack of an essential-for-Europe diesel engine option to really help conquest sales away from posh rival SUVs.