x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Infiniti is aiming for even greater market share with its new naming strategy

For one luxury carmaker, a new naming strategy kicks off first in the UAE.

Samir Cherfan, MD of Infiniti-Nissan in the Middle East. Courtesy: Infiniti-Nissan
Samir Cherfan, MD of Infiniti-Nissan in the Middle East. Courtesy: Infiniti-Nissan

What's in a name? For car companies, the name of a model can make the difference between life and death, especially when geographical differences in translation come into play, and there are some real howlers out there. Naming a car must be fraught with difficulties - just how do you encapsulate a vehicle's strengths in a simple word to be attached to its rump?

American manufacturers seem to have got this down to a fine art. Explorer, Yukon, Viper, Stingray - this page could be filled with car names from the US that conjure up images of adventure and danger. But the Europeans sometimes get it badly wrong. Dacia Duster or Renault Fluence, anyone? And luxury Japanese brand, Infiniti, has been deliberating over its model-naming strategy for the past two years, to simplify the range of cars and keep customer interest high.

Infiniti has been around longer than most of us probably realise, and it's almost a quarter of a century since its first saloon model, the Q45, was launched. According to Infiniti's managing director for the Middle East, Samir Cherfan, that was and continues to be an iconic model, but unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool fanatic, you probably don't know it ever existed. Nevertheless, the company is using the word "heritage" quite a lot while trying to get across the message that it means to substantially grow its output over the next few years. "Passion" is another one.

Heritage and passion? Sounds more like Ferrari than a company most assume is simply the posh arm of Nissan. But Infiniti is doing its utmost to disassociate itself, at least superficially, from its parent company, and has even relocated its worldwide headquarters to Hong Kong. Which will be handy for a planned invasion of China.

Also handy for the China offensive will be the new "naming" strategy. Currently, Infiniti's range consists of models without actual names as such, and this is set to continue. But where we now have a G series, M, EX, FX, JX and QX, from this month onwards a new strategy will roll out, and this region will be the first worldwide to see its implementation. Cherfan says that, after consulting its existing client base and carrying out extensive market research, this is the best Infiniti could come up with.

So, from this point on, Infiniti's models will now simply be prefixed either by "Q" for saloons, coupes and convertibles or "QX" for crossover and SUVs. To communicate "a logical model hierarchy", a two-digit number will follow - the higher the number, the higher its place in the model range. Simple, no?

"Infiniti's new nomenclature strategy will be implemented in logical stages within the existing product range, as new model year variants are introduced - the Infiniti QX70 [formerly known as the FX] will be the first in the Middle East," says Cherfan. "The change in name for our premium range will help Infiniti to grow into the future, and an outward sign that Infiniti is making good headway on its midterm plan. We hope our customers and enthusiasts share in our excitement for the next generation Infiniti."

Exciting stuff, I'm sure you will agree. Sarcasm aside, though, this is a company that does mean to grow and is showing no signs of diluting the recipe it came up with at the beginning, namely to overhaul the entire ownership experience for its customers. Its aggressive sponsorship of Red Bull's F1 team has paid dividends and has also resulted in triple world champion, Sebastian Vettel, coming on board as director of performance.

Only time will tell if this so-called naming strategy is the right move but it does open up the possibility of new models slotting into the "hierarchy" and, with Vettel's influence, who knows? An all-conquering Japanese (or is it Chinese now?) supercar could become a production reality. Cherfan is remaining schtum about that and, as we all know, that usually speaks volumes.

khackett@thenational.ae

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