November 2, 2011

Media Center Interview with EVP Andy Palmer on Infiniti Global HQ

Q1. Nissan and Infiniti have a major announcement this morning. What are the details?

EVP:

Major news for both Nissan Motor Company and for the global Infiniti brand -- from April 1st, 2012, we’re going to establish a Nissan hub headquarters (HQ) in Hong Kong.

We are also going to establish an Infiniti HQ in that office in Hong Kong, so this is the opportunity to bring together basically all of our Infiniti global management team. Some of our global downstream functions, such as global marketing, global sales, global control, and bring them together and establish this global Infiniti HQ in Hong Kong.

That doesn’t mean to say we’re going to move, for example, regional sales and marketing, and it doesn’t mean to say that we are going to move Infiniti engineering or our Infiniti manufacturing. What it does mean is that we will bring together and establish this global HQ function in Hong Kong for that global management team.

Q2. What was behind this decision for Infiniti, particularly in regard to the resources and implementation involved?

EVP:

From the implementation point of view, we will start from 1st April, and there will be a transition period of about 12 months. What’s the logic? The logic is we've already announced that between now and 2016 there will be major growth in Infiniti as a luxury brand all over the world.

Today, we are very, very strong in the United States, and of course we need to make ourselves even stronger, but the major growth is going to be coming from Europe, Southeast Asia and China. If you were in the fortuitous position of being able to choose where you locate your global activities knowing that background, then of course the most obvious place to put your headquarters is going to be in Hong Kong.

It’s the gateway to China, it's the gateway to Southeast Asia, it has wonderful communications with Europe, with the United States and of course most important of all with Japan. Remember that we are going to continue to locate our engineering functions and our manufacturing functions in Japan, so that conduit is very important and very strong. So almost a perfect location, and that’s why we have made the decision that we have, which is to put that global activity in Hong Kong.

Q3. What external factors may have affected this decision or had a catalytic role in deciding now is the time?

EVP:

I wouldn’t say that there were any particular external factors. The main factor for Infiniti has been the dedication in making Infiniti global, to making it a truly powerful, global luxury brand, to committing to reaching 10% in the luxury TIV (total industry volume).

To do that we obviously need to create and reinforce the global management team with this global luxury perspective. Clearly, a lot of the growth is coming from China, Southeast Asia, so locating our global team there is obviously going to have a beneficial effect. To be frank, moving the global team a little bit away from Nissan -- Nissan as a brand -- and giving it a little bit of oxygen to grow as a brand, to show clear separation and to become a brand in its own right, has been one of the factors in making the decision. Also, the fantastic communications that you get in Hong Kong, with Europe, with the U.S., with China, with Japan, that’s also one of the factors. So I don’t think I could say there was really any external factor, but very much an internal factor, which is the catalyst to growth.

As far as Nissan is concerned, Nissan is also going to be locating some of its global activities in Hong Kong. The most obvious is some part of the communication or PR function will also move to Hong Kong. Why Hong Kong? Obviously, Hong Kong is one of the centers of media -- it gives us an access to an awful lot of media relations. In terms of understanding what is going on in some of our biggest markets globally, bringing in Hong Kong is going to help us a lot.

Q4. How do you see things trending ahead for Infiniti?

EVP:

Moving the Infiniti HQ to Hong Kong is one of the catalysts of the tremendous amount of growth and a tremendous amount of ambition in being a serious luxury automotive player.

We’ve also got a lot of product activity that is coming through. For example, we are going to launch Infiniti JX at the Los Angeles show in the coming weeks. This is one of the new cars that is coming and there’s an awful lot of new cars that are coming.

Another example: We will shortly be showing a concept of our Infiniti EV sedan. You’ve seen some of the sketches so far, but you’ll be able to see the model, the concept model, in the very near future. We are also going to show an idea of what an exciting Infiniti sports car might look like, also in the near future. So there’s a whole cadence of product news, geographical expansion news, and really talking about what the brand stands for.

The brand stands for “Inspired Performance”, which you can say is all about making cars that compete dynamically with the Germans, but at the same time that bring Asian hospitality to the brand. Of course, being located in Hong Kong, being the only global automotive maker that can call Hong Kong its home, helps us a lot in terms of determining what Asian hospitality really means.