‘Vision 2030 reflects ambitions for a thriving economy’

‘Vision 2030 reflects ambitions for a thriving economy’
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Infiniti Q50: Eye-catching style
‘Vision 2030 reflects ambitions for a thriving economy’
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Q50 interior: Has sporty feel
‘Vision 2030 reflects ambitions for a thriving economy’
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Juergen Schmitz
Updated 25 February 2017

‘Vision 2030 reflects ambitions for a thriving economy’

‘Vision 2030 reflects ambitions for a thriving economy’

The Saudi market forms 20 percent of regional sales for Infiniti, according to Juergen Schmitz, managing director of Infiniti Middle East. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, he said that the Saudi Vision 2030 encompasses three key themes: A vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.
He promised a pipeline of exciting announcements for the year ahead but disclosed only news of one model — the Infiniti Q60 Coupe — arriving soon across the region including Saudi Arabia.
Excerpts from the interview are as follows:
How important is the Middle East region, and especially Saudi Arabia, for Infiniti?
The Middle East as a whole continues to be an important region for Infiniti. On a global level, Infiniti continued on its growth path closing out 2016 with more than 230,000 vehicles sold around the world representing an increase of 7 percent compared to the previous year and a record all-time high.
In the Middle East, Infiniti sold 7,700 vehicles and increased its premium segment market share to approximately 6.4 percent — one of the highest for the brand in the world.
Saudi Arabia obviously continues to be an important market for Infiniti. In 2016, we delivered over 1,500 vehicles to customers in Saudi Arabia — representing almost 20 percent of our regional sales.

Saudi Arabia has announced its “Vision 2030,” do you see any potential for increasing Infiniti investment in the Kingdom?
Saudi Arabia remains a crucial market for us representing almost 20 percent of our regional sales. Saudi Vision 2030 encompasses three key themes: A vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. This announcement is a clear commitment by the Saudi government to its citizens as well as multi-nationals like ourselves who operate in the Kingdom.
Our goal is to deliver on our promise of a premium motoring experience to our customers in the region. As such any Infiniti investments into the Kingdom will be treated on a case-by-case basis while obviously evaluating the market condition as well as the end-customer benefit. What I can say right now is that we already have a pipeline of exciting announcements for the year ahead. In the short term you can expect the launch of an all-new model in the form of the Infiniti Q60 Coupe across the region including Saudi Arabia.

What is the projected growth for Infiniti in the region during 2017 and what are the most important Infiniti launches during the year?
I cannot go into specifics on the future or any related forecasts as we live and operate in a dynamic regional market that is always changing. What I can tell you is that as a brand, it is always our endeavour to perform better than the market — and this is what we are currently already accomplishing.
While 2017 will be challenging due to the macro environment, we remain confident in our excellent product portfolio as well as our strong and growing regional customer base to help continue to drive growth for us.

How is Infiniti planning in the long run for alternative powertrain technology and when are we likely to see the first electric Infiniti vehicle?
In terms of alternative powertrains, our focus right now is on hybrid vehicles that utilize the technology to increase the performance of the vehicle. Pure electric vehicles are not a priority for us right now.
Another development is what we announced in Paris last year; the Infiniti VC-Turbo engine. Infiniti’s new VC-Turbo is the world’s first production-ready variable compression ratio engine. Promising to be one of the most advanced internal combustion engines ever created, VC-Turbo’s technology combines the power of a high-performance 2.0-liter turbo gasoline engine with the torque and efficiency of an advanced diesel powertrain — without the equivalent emissions.

On which models are you counting in 2017 to be your best sellers? And what do they offer the regional consumers?

On the product front, Infiniti’s offering features a dynamic and standout design blending the latest in technology and performance into a neat package. Our vehicles really offer our customers an alternative to luxury i.e. a unique premium experience that is different from other premium brands out there.
When looking at the future of 2017, we will be unveiling our hotly anticipated Q60 Coupe that will arrive soon. We obviously have a few more exciting announcements for the rest of the year; however, we will reveal those in a timely manner.

How did your dealership network develop in the past year? And how many are stand-alone outlets?
Infiniti is on a clear growth path across the Middle East, which is driven by our extensive model portfolio. Last year, we launched the QX50, QX60, Q30 and Q50. As with any growing portfolio, we have also been focused on network expansion. 2016 saw the introduction of the first-ever Infiniti boutique launched in Qatar last year as well as a new retail center in Fujairah and Bahrain.
Together with our partners in Dubai, we also launched the region’s first-ever Infiniti Certified Pre-Owned (ICPO) center in Dubai. We aim to offer our customers in the region the Infiniti premium customer experience. With this mindset, we aim to introduce an additional three new retail centers across Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the next few months.

What is Infiniti’s philosophy about viability of developing autonomous driving?
When people think about the autonomous concept they usually look to the final stage as opposed to the various phases that are required to get there. Currently Infiniti is very much a part of those “stages” already existing in our vehicles coming relatively close to this futuristic fully autonomous world of driving.
In some of our vehicles, like the Q50, we have a lane departure warning and prevention feature. This means if you happen to veer outside the lane markers, on the road your Infiniti will automatically bring you back into your lane. Then there is the predictive forward collision warning system with braking. If you come too close to a car ahead of you the Q50 slows you down and then accelerates again once the obstacle is removed without the driver having to do anything. You can choose to enable or disable these features.