In July of 1987, Nissan announced the formation of a new luxury car division to be called Infiniti that would start selling cars in the fall of 1989. How could we have not known about this? Did they know that we were going to announce Lexus? How were they able to announce six weeks before Lexus? Did they know when we were going to announce and announced early to steal the headlines? I had a sinking feeling that we were behind before we had even started. This news meant that we would be continually compared against each other in product, marketing, and sales. Who got it right, and who got it wrong?
The Infiniti name was a new spelling with four “i”s to demonstrate they were looking forward to new horizons, to infinity. The division would be selling an upscale performance luxury sedan and driver-oriented coupe. William Bruce, Vice President of the Infiniti Division, was vague about sales projections and stated, “Customer satisfaction is far more important in establishing the new brand.” Infiniti was going to be customer-centric with the look and feel of luxury hotels and unheard-of amenities for car dealerships.
How many luxury cars could the market absorb? The Wall Street Journal headline read, “Honda Hits Early Snag in Effort to Enter the Luxury Car Market.” The story said that Honda’s new luxury car division sales were off by 25% versus their projections. The story went on to say that Honda’s decision to pursue affluent buyers with Acura had brought them face to face with the well-entrenched European competitors.
Jaguar was also attempting to expand its luxury footprint in the U.S. with a new channel called Sterling. Their marketing campaign stated, “If Only the Japanese Could Build a Car Like Jaguar.” They claimed Sterling represented “civilized excitement.” Sterling sales never got off the ground, and it went out of business.
Ford had also recently launched a separate, upscale division called Merkur. It was off to a poor start and would eventually fail.
Now our competition was not just the Europeans, domestics, and Acura, but Infiniti as well. It was apparent that no one was getting a free pass into the luxury market in the lucrative U.S. market, and that would include Lexus. Now our competition was not just the Europeans but also Acura and Infiniti!
“How joyful are those who fear the LORD… They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” Psalm 112:1,8 (NLT)
Read more about the joy God offers us through His son in the God of Hope book!
When Nissan announced they were entering the luxury market with Infiniti, the media reaction was mild because they were waiting for the other shoe to drop. What would Toyota do? When Toyota finally announced we were also entering the luxury market with Lexus, the media reaction was immediate, swift, and not all good.
(To be continued in “Announcing Lexus”)