Q&A: Infiniti Eyes Value-Driven Luxury Buyers

Ben Poore of Nissan

This month, Infiniti launched its traditional year-end sale, with a twist: Focus on the brand, not the sale.

Like just about every other luxury auto brand, it has been struggling to build back sales volume, consumer confidence, and general mojo in the last quarter this year after seeing a 30% drop in sales. Automakers are challenged with keeping their messages current with fewer marketing dollars.

Ben Poore, VP of the Franklin, Tenn.-based Infiniti business unit of Nissan Corp., says the key to rebuilding will be smart media spend and new product. He spoke to Marketing Daily.

Q: Infiniti has less to spend on advertising and marketing. How do you keep talking about the brand and products with less money?

A: Well, you can go much further on a much lower investment than you ever could have done in the past. The key is not spend -- it's spending the proper amount of money and doing it efficiently.



Q: Just how hard was Infiniti hit in the first three quarters this year?

A: Through last month, the industry was down 30% and we were down 33%. We lost some share, but we knew that was going to happen. But it's because we needed more cars; we had actually under-ordered.

Last month, we started with the lowest inventory since 2001. An example was the QX [full-size SUV]; with the QX, we started to see a trend of sales picking back up. Where we saw big luxury SUVs, which might be pulling a boat or a motor home, really moving out of the market last year, they are now coming back in favor because nothing can substitute for them. So we started to stock up on QX, raising inventory to proper levels, and in the last two months we have seen sales increase 40% to 50%. Sales improved because inventory grew at dealerships.

Q: But isn't the luxury segment taking a huge hit from consumers -- even affluent ones -- deciding they really don't need that premium vehicle?

A: There is an interesting trend in luxury in America in which consumers are saying: "I'm going to buy luxury, but not to prove something to the neighbors." Keeping up with one's neighbors in terms of luxury for the sake of luxury is starting to be very much out of style. And that trend from "outward" to "inward" is something that can help us a lot.

When I look at old-line luxury brands, [I see] their transaction prices have been falling, but we have actually been increasing our transaction prices. We have been improving transaction prices because we have the ability in this market to benefit from consumers who are no longer willing to pay for a badge image. But people are returning carefully and cautiously to luxury and looking for value.

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