Anthony Birkett

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Terrible choices by Infiniti UK

Thursday 21st January 2016

But first, a preface.

The Saab's

Since before I was even born, there was always a Saab in my family. It changed every few years, starting with 900’s, then a couple of generations of 9-3’s. In 2009, it was a 9-3 Vector Sport, Anniversary. In my opinion, the best trimmed Saab ever to be built.

 

Now, the Saab’s in my family have always come from the same place. (name drop!) Humberside Motors, in Grimsby. A great bunch of people, who we came to know as friends. They have another site in Hull too. For a long time, these guys were the main Saab dealer in the area.

 

2010 comes along, and GM pull the plug on Saab. The factory closes its doors, the brand changes ownership a few times, and eventually folds. For the customers, this wasn’t a massive deal – dealers mostly stuck around, changing main franchise, and the parts are all GM. The cars were basically Vauxhall’s – starting with the Vectra, and ending with the Insignia.

 

This obviously had a direct impact on Humberside Motors, but they set out to find a new dealer network to be part of.

The result saw Grimsby partner up with Renault and its smaller brands (Dacia).

Hull took a much riskier route, and became the first independent dealer in the country to work with Infiniti. This was September 2012, and Infiniti had exactly ZERO presence in the UK.

 

Around this time, I was walking around one of the local car shows. Infiniti had come out in force. The one that hooked me into the display, was an M35h. It was apparent that this unheard brand was locked on to Merc, BMW and Audi – they wanted that market.

 

June 2013 – and the Saab is, sadly, gone. In its place – an Infiniti EX. A different class of car, but also a considerable ownership experience.

 

 

The EX

Zoom forward to January 2016 – all is well. The car is great, and the support from Hull is spot on. Hull themselves have won the European Dealer of the Year award.

In the last 2 years – I’ve driven some VERY nice vehicles.

September 2014 was fun, starting with the monstrous FX Vettel edition. This thing had me smiling for a week.

 

A week later, I was taking the new Q50 2.0t Petrol for a spin.

 

That was a particularly important day. Not only because of this:

 

But also because the Q50 had just been promoted onto my “this is my next car” notes.

Let’s just focus on that for a moment. My next car is going to be an Infiniti Q50. I’m torn between the 2.0t petrol, and the 2.2 CDI.

I’m not just basing this choice on the car – there needs to be support and trust with the local dealer.

 

 

This opinion nearly changed in October 2015, at the Q30 launch. A very nice car, smaller than the Q50. No used market on these yet though – making the Q50 a much more economical buy.

 

 

 

The Bombshell

January 7th 2016 – every Infiniti Hull customer receives an email. Paraphrasing:

“Your new nearest Infiniti dealer is Leeds. Your cars servicing has now been fully transferred.

Ok, thanks. Bye.”

 

What has happened here? Infiniti UK have pulled the plug on one of their most successful dealers.

Customers are now expected to travel from this area, to Leeds. It's expected that this will just be accepted.

 

I go back to a previous statement. "I’m not just basing this choice on the car – there needs to be support and trust with the local dealer."

Cars don't sell themselves. Dealers sell cars. Dealers have a relationship with customers. Customers are the only thing that will ever give Infiniti a start in the UK.

 

I feel that there's more to this. When Infiniti first entered the UK, the dealers were all funded by middle-eastern money. Hull was the first independent dealer. In this era, Infiniti saw growth, Hull did well, and the Infiniti UK team seemed to understand how things worked at the forecourt level.

Going into 2015, Infiniti set up a retail group, to encompass the franchised dealerships. Hull remained independent. During this change in structure - something seems to have been lost. People left at the top level, and the understanding between forecourt and top level has disappeared.

 

I would estimate that Infiniti are selling around 1000 cars per year in the UK. The fact that they are willing to ditch one of their best dealers, and leave the area uncovered is worrying. 

 

Infiniti Hull obviously can’t disclose too much – I respect that. But there needs to be a statement from Infiniti UK on this. They clearly don’t understand that the car purchases are based on dealer relationships.

 

As it stands at the moment (and this is painful) - the Q50 is off my list.

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