What's in a name?
Apparently quite a bit when it comes to the Infinti brand. About two years ago Infiniti overhauled its naming scheme.
I say "overhauled" because it was a total departure, not just a bit of a modification.
The change was part of former Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen's plan to position Infiniti as closer to its German rivals that use a naming scheme similar to the one that Infiniti is using now.
For example, Audi (which formerly employed de Nysschen) names all sedans with an A and all croosover or SUV vehicles with a Q. The number that follows corresponds to the size of the vehicle which creates an easy to follow scale. Infiniti literally adopted the Q right out of Audi's naming structure, using it to denote sedans, and using QX to denote crossovers and SUVs. So it definitely does bring Infiniti it much closer (perhaps too close) to the German brands.
Where are we now?
The new nomenclature has been in place for 2 years, and though de Nysschen has moved on to run Cadillac, all us Infiniti people are now able to evaluate the results of our new vehicle names. Unfortunately, it's not good news. In fact, it's the opposite of good news.
Across the board, every model has seen a drop in sales numbers since the name change according to Sean McNamara, senior manager-product planning for Infiniti Americas.
“We saw a drop pretty much across the board when we switched names.”
Obviously there are factors outside the name of a vehicle that affect its sales. The simplest way we have of isolating the impact that the name change had is taking a look at models that received no change at all in terms of facelift or updating, but still received a new name. In those cases, data from WardsAuto does show that sales declined.
Of all the Infiniti models, the EX and FX CUVs saw the greatest decline following the name change.
To translate, the EX is now the QX50 and the FX is the QX70.
Reflecting on the past, Looking to the future
Infiniti sold 8,312 EXs in 2010, but just 2,727 QX50s last year, while the brand tallied 10,420 FX deliveries in 2010 but roughly half that, 5,213, last year.
Both of these vehicles are in serious need of a redesign. The QX50 hasn't had a redesign since it originally debuted in 2007, and the FX hasn't received one since 2008.
That probably has much more of an influence on sales than the names do, in my opinion.
Infiniti handled the change clumsily, and that caused them to suffer in terms of awareness of the brand and different models. Still, the new naming scheme actually does make more sense than the old one if you look at it separate from the previous names.
“I think people are finally getting used to it. I think it took a little bit of training for dealers and everybody else to realize there’s actually some (naming) logic (according to) size and price.”
So there you have it. The naming change was probably a good idea and move, but the way it was handled was not good. Not enough customer education. And why choose the letter Q when a competitor has already laid claim to that letter in their own naming structure?
All eyes are on the upcoming Q30 and QX30 right now. A Q60 midsize coupe should follow. And then maybe one day they will update the QX70 so that it doesn't look so dated and out of place in the Infiniti lineup.