As it takes on high-end automakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Motor Co. will begin selling Infiniti models in Japan in February for the first time, 24 years after the luxury brand was born in the U.S.
The first model for sale in Japan, named Skyline, will be a hybrid version of Infiniti’s flagship Q50 sedan, Nissan Chief Planning Officer Andy Palmer said at a briefing in Tokyo on Monday. Nissan is targeting initial monthly sales of 200 vehicles for the car, priced from ¥4.5 million, he said.
Selling Infiniti in more markets will move Nissan closer to its goal of boosting the brand’s annual sales to 500,000 vehicles by March 2017 and narrow the gap with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Nissan is tapping Japanese consumers’ familiarity with the brand Skyline, which is also the name of a range of autos it currently sells with roots tracing back to a carmaker for the late Emperor Hirohito.
“Its bloodline, its DNA, is directly from the Prince Motor Co., which used to provide the vehicle for the Japanese Emperor,” Palmer said. “There can be no better symbol of the fact that Skyline is linked to the premium and luxury brand.”
Prince Motor first introduced Skyline cars to the domestic market in 1957, and the automaker merged with Nissan in 1966.
Nissan began selling the Skyline sedan as the Infiniti G sport sedan overseas in 2002 and renamed it the Q50 at the beginning of this year. The Nissan Skyline will continue to be sold here along with the hybrid Skyline, Palmer said.
“The current buyers of the Skyline in Japan are middle-aged or older, who aspired to own the car when they were young but couldn’t afford it until now,” said Kenichi Omae, chief executive officer of Business Breakthrough Inc., a Tokyo-based provider of business training. “If the Skyline becomes an Infiniti, it will be meaningless for them.”
Nissan said it sold 173,000 Infiniti cars worldwide in 2012.