TOKYO -- Nissan will launch sales of its Infiniti luxury brand across Europe during 2008.
Unlike Toyota's Lexus luxury brand, which launched in Europe by sharing Toyota showrooms, Infiniti will begin with a dedicated sales and service network.
Nissan has not decided which Infiniti cars it will sell in Europe. In the US, the brand offers sedans, coupes and SUVs.
In Europe, Infiniti cars would face tough competition from the German premium brands BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
Asked how Infiniti would compete in Germany, where Lexus has struggled, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said Infiniti would not compete head-on against established luxury brands.
"Don't expect us to come with very classical products," he said. "We are not going to bring Infiniti with a large sedan that is a little bit more powerful, a little bit more smooth than what exists in the market. We're going to come with very original products."
Brian Carolin, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan Europe, said that Infiniti would offer gasoline and diesel engines in Europe.
Infiniti will launch in Russia this autumn, followed by China and Ukraine during 2007.
Germany, Italy troubles
Ghosn said Nissan sales have struggled in Germany and Italy because of poor management.
"We mismanaged our operations, and we recognized it," he said.
Ghosn has forced changes as a result. "We changed all the management team in Germany," as well as the dealer body, he said.
"We think Nissan should do a much better job in Germany than it has done," Ghosn said. The same is true in Italy, he added.
Nissan's 2005 sales in Italy were down 24.7 percent to 47,858 units compared with 2004, according to UK-based market researcher JATO Dynamics.
In Germany the automaker's sales last year declined 13.4 percent to 52,787 units.
You may e-mail James B. Treece at [email protected]