BEIJING/TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. plans to quadruple Infiniti's share of the Chinese luxury-auto market within five years as it rushes to make up a "ridiculous" amount of time lost to Volkswagen AG's Audi and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus.
CEO Carlos Ghosn has set a target of winning at least 8 percent of the luxury segment in the world's largest auto market by 2016. Infiniti has 2 percent now. Market leader Audi has 34 percent while Lexus has 8 percent, according to industry researcher J.D. Power & Associates.
Nissan's strategy to boost sales includes doubling the number of Infiniti dealers this year, adding five product lines over five years and airing its first TV commercials in a nation where primetime audiences can exceed 500 million.
The company is also considering production in China to eliminate tariffs of 25 percent on imported cars. "We entered the China market even later than Taiwan and South Korea, and that's very ridiculous to anybody who has a bit of knowledge about the industry," Allen Lu, who left Ferrari S.p.A. to become managing director of Infiniti's China unit last year, said in an interview in Beijing. "But, it's like running a marathon -- you can't tell who will win after just 10 kilometers."
Nissan, Japan's second-largest automaker, aims to more than triple worldwide Infiniti sales to 500,000 a year by March 2017, taking about 10 percent of the global luxury-car market. China became Infiniti's second-biggest market after the U.S. last year, according to Lu. The brand isn't sold in Japan.
"We have a good momentum in China and we should continue," Ghosn said July 26 in Beijing, where Nissan unveiled its mid-term China business plan.
Infiniti trails Audi, BMW AG and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz in China. BMW has a 22 percent share of the luxury-car market and Mercedes has 14 percent, according to J.D. Power.
Infiniti's China sales were 11,513 last year, doubling from the year before, though still only 5 percent of Audi's. Lexus sales rose more than 55 percent to 52,933 units in 2010, according to Toyota, Japan's largest automaker.
Audi also ranked first in a new-vehicle sales satisfaction survey released Aug. 15 by J.D. Power. Nissan's Chinese venture Dongfeng Motor Co. came second. The survey was based on responses from 11,496 owners and covered 57 passenger-vehicle brands.