May 15, 2013
Proving the Q50
May 15 – Tochigi, Japan – Taking test drives at the Tochigi Proving Ground, Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn spoke with the Media Center about the new Infiniti Q50.
Media Center: This is a milestone day for Infiniti with the Q50 launch. What is the atmosphere like here in Tochigi?
Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen
It’s a day of celebration, a very exciting day, greeted by beautiful weather and it is marking the start of production of the most important model in the Infiniti line, so it’s a day when we will begin to record the future of history for the Infiniti brand.
Media Center: You say the most important model, the Q50. What does it mean for the Infiniti brand globally?
Well, Q50 really earmarks the new design direction, new brand philosophy for Infiniti. It is a major step forward in terms of technology, engineering, design and it really sparks Infiniti’s big leap upward as we reposition the brand.
It also is our volume model. It will be our single most important model in terms of presenting the brand to the markets, and so it is a car that has a lot of responsibility on its shoulders.
Media Center: The Q50 will be manufactured at the Tochigi plant. Will Tochigi remain a role model for production?
Absolutely. I have the highest confidence in the men and women who work here at the Infiniti plant in Tochigi. It is the mother plant for Infiniti, and certainly we also expect in the future with our even more discerning, high-end models will also be based here, because of the very high standards that we are able to achieve at this plant.
Media Center: This morning you were on the Tochigi Proving Ground, driving the Q50 and the Q50 hybrid. What do you think?
It was a great experience. Obviously, I have driven the two cars and I compared them to the car that we have taken as a benchmark, which is a BMW core product. I think both the gasoline engine and the hybrid perform very well. The acceleration, the stability, the power, the flat ride, the comfort – I would say even the noise comfort of the car – the breaking makes you feel very safe, very powerful, very progressive. I liked the experience quite a lot. Obviously, the hybrid drives like a kind of sports car, a sports version of the Q50.
I think we’ve done a great car. I think now that we are ensuring that the quality is going to be at the top level, this car should do great for Infiniti and should sell well. Obviously, it will be up to our marketing and sales team to make sure that we valorize all the investments that have been made.
Media Center: What is the importance of the Q50 to the brand, and how do you see Infiniti evolving?
This is the No.1, most-sold car of Infiniti, the bread and butter of the brand. It will compete head to head with the 3 Series of BMW, with the C Series of Mercedes, the A4 of Audi, which are very good cars and have been worked with a lot of diligence by all these carmakers.
For us, being very competitive in this segment with this car is very important for the rest of the brand because it’s a global growth model and because it carries the image of the brand for the most profitable segment of the premium market. It’s very good to see this kind of technology and this kind of design.
Media Center: We are at Tochigi, the “Mother Plant” of Infiniti, with very high quality and reputation. It’s been a tough two years for Japan, with the strong yen. What are your expectations from here?
The plant didn’t just lament and whine for the last two years. Unfortunately, we were hit by things beyond our control – the strengthening of the yen, the crisis in China – the production of the plant went down. I would like to commend the fighting spirit of the team of the plant, because instead of just sitting down and lamenting the situation, they improved quality, they worked on their costs, they improved their own effectiveness and productivity.
They’ve done a lot of things, in fact, that are going to deliver a lot of results now that production is going up. For 2013 our forecast for the production of the plant comes back to levels not seen since 2008, a level of production before the first crisis of Lehman Brothers. So, I feel very good after visiting plant because I can feel and measure the fighting spirit of the plant, and I see how much the plant has used its time to fine tune its own performance.
With the volume coming back, we’ll be doing better, but again it’s a never-ending effort, it’s a never-ending race, but we have cooperation. The gemba we have in Tochigi is second to none in terms of making premium cars, but we just need to make sure that taking the right measures, that we’re working on the right issues, so the consumer at the end of the day can be sure that Infiniti is a top brand.