Big China sales
Looking ahead, North America should deliver sales of 200,000 units in 2016 -- or about 40 percent of Infiniti's annualized target of half a million vehicles, Palmer said. That would be roughly double last year's tally of 98,461, when sales fell 5 percent. Through April, Infiniti's 2012 sales are down 4 percent to 33,349.
The biggest sales increase, on a percentage basis, will come in China. Infiniti expects sales there to climb to around 100,000 in 2016, from just under 20,000 last year.
Russia and the Middle East are expected to be other big growth markets.
"Establishing our headquarters in Hong Kong, the gateway to China, is an acknowledgment of the center of gravity in luxury vehicle sales," Palmer said. He said Infiniti dealerships in China will increase to more than 100 over the next year, from 25 last year.
Nissan's deliveries of Infiniti vehicles in China climbed almost 40 percent to 19,000 units last year, making it the luxury brand's second-largest market after the United States, where two-thirds of Infiniti cars were sold last year.
"What they are trying to do in China is what Toyota's doing in the United States," said Kota Yuzawa, an analyst with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. "It's very much from scratch. Lexus 20 years ago was also from scratch."
Sales of premium cars have "considerable" room to grow as they only account for about 5 percent of vehicle sales in China, compared with 10 percent in the U.S. and 16 percent in Europe, Yuzawa said in an April 20 report.
Infiniti sales may reach 300,000 in the country by March 2021, according to Yuzawa's report.
Nissan said last month it will begin manufacturing two Infiniti models in China starting in 2014. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters in Hong Kong that details, including the location of Infiniti's China plant, will be announced by the end of the year.
Infiniti vehicles are sold in 46 countries and regions, and the company planning to expand that to 70 markets by 2016. Ghosn said that Infiniti this year will enter several new markets, including Australia, Mexico and Brazil.
Bloomberg contributed to this report