Car Industry

Infiniti kicks Western Europe to the curb amid restructuring

The withdrawal will be complete in 2020.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Sometimes it's wiser to leave a market than to stay and waste precious time and money fighting an uphill battle.

Infiniti announced on Tuesday that it intends to withdraw from Western Europe in 2020. The first step will be to end its Q30 and QX30 production lines in Sunderland, England, which will happen by the middle of this year. The Nissan-owned automaker said it's working to find other jobs for employees that might be affected, and once that's done, it'll focus on ending franchise agreements.

Infiniti said this decision was part of a restructuring plan that allows it to focus purely on its most active markets -- namely, North America and China. And while Infiniti plans to leave Western Europe, it will stay active in Eastern Europe, in addition to Asia and the Middle East.

"I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it."

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Even though this seems sudden, it's not like Infiniti is abandoning the region entirely. It will still have a presence in terms of service, maintenance and warranty repairs, although it's unclear if they'll be Infiniti-branded centers or something else.

According to Autocar, Infiniti accumulated approximately 60,000 customers in Europe since it entered the market in 2008. But Autocar's report doesn't blame low sales alone -- it also points out that the company had "no sustainable way of investing in the kind of technology needed to reduce its fleet emissions in Europe." Infiniti intends on electrifying its portfolio by 2021, which might not be fast enough for Europe's liking.

In addition to the already planned electrification, Infiniti said it will refocus its efforts on North America's SUV lineup, and it will also introduce five new vehicles in China over the next five years. It also intends to "realize more synergies with Nissan," but the company didn't offer up any specifics to that end.

The announcement is the latest blow to a UK car industry destabilized by the Brexit vote. Nissan in February announced production of the X-Trail would move to Japan, following a trade agreement with the EU, shortly before Honda said Civic Hatchback and Type R production would cease at its Swindon plant. While automakers have been careful not to blame Brexit -- Infiniti does not mention it in its statement today -- any uncertainty over future trading arrangements is kryptonite to their finely tuned just-in-time production lines. Ford Europe and Jaguar Land Rover, among others, have cut production since the vote.