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Infiniti Setting Up Shop in Hong Kong

Move underscores importance of Chinese luxury car market.

by on Nov.04, 2011

A production version of the Infiniti Etherea concept could be targeted at the Chinese market.

In the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, last March, a number of automakers have been shifting production out of Japan, but Nissan apparently has another reason why it has decided to relocate the global headquarters of its Infiniti division to Hong Kong.

The move will put the brand’s central office right in the heart of the booming Chinese luxury car market, with other emerging markets, such as India, a short flight away.

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The relocation underscores the increasing importance not only of China to the Japanese maker, but it also shows the growing role of the Infiniti brand, itself.  Infiniti originally focused on the U.S. after its debut, 21 years ago, but is now rapidly reaching out to other markets around the world.

“As Infiniti grows its presence in the global luxury markets of North America, Europe, China and South East Asia, we selected Hong Kong as the optimum location for our new global Infiniti headquarters,” said Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “We see an opportunity to reinforce Asian hospitality within the Infiniti brand, distinct from both Nissan and our facing luxury competitors.”

“We are proud to be the only automaker that will call Hong Kong home,” he added.

The decision to go to Hong Kong underscores Nissan’s policy of making out-of-the-norm strategic corporate moves.  It delivered a pair of shocks, a few years back, when it announced plans to not only move its global headquarters from Tokyo to Yokohama, but also to relocate its American HQ from Southern California to Nashville, Tennessee.

While specific details of the move have yet to be released, the maker says it will have about 100 staffers in Hong Kong – and they will still report back to Nissan’s corporate offices in Japan.

Nissan has aggressively rolled out the Infiniti nameplate in recent years, expanding in markets as far-flung as Europe and South Korea.  But it is betting there will be particularly strong demand in China, which is already the world’s largest automotive market.

Indeed, China has a particularly strong luxury car segment reflecting the emergence of a powerful upper class – with demand strong among government bureaucrats and corporate executives, as well.

But Nissan also is planning for big growth in the middle market and the fast-expanding low end of the Chinese market – especially in the second and third-tier Chinese cities that have until now not been touched by the country’s dramatic economic growth.

Not only has Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn committed to significant increases in Chinese production capacity but he is also reportedly getting ready to approve the return of the old Datsun nameplate which could be used on a new line of low-priced offerings.  That strategy mirrors the move by other makers, such as General Motors, which earlier this year launched the entry-level Baojun brand.

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