"It was the year of the SUV." That's how Mike Colleran, vice president and managing director of Infiniti Americas, describes the company's performance in 2018. Indeed, crossovers and SUVs accounted for two thirds of the brand's US sales last year. But while the compact QX50, midsize QX60 and full-size QX80 all posted strong year-over-year sales increases, the subcompact QX30, meanwhile, has proven to be somewhat of a flop.
"Frankly, we haven't seen the retail that we'd like to see on that vehicle," Colleran told Roadshow in an interview at the Detroit Auto Show this week. And as small SUVs -- especially premium ones -- continue to be red-hot in the US market place, Infiniti's US VP admits, "we're figuring out how to be a better player there."
Compact and curvy QX30 sets new entry point for InfinitiSee all photos
The current QX30 is based on the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and this shared effort isn't likely to continue in the future. According to a Motor Authority report, Infiniti president Christian Meunier said the QX30 "is not a product that has a future beyond its current life," and that it "will be replaced by an all-Infiniti platform."
In 2018, Infiniti sold just 8,101 QX30s in the US. That's a 42.5-percent decrease over the previous year, when the company moved 14,093 examples of the subcompact SUV in our market.
"We definitely want to be in the space," Colleran told Roadshow in regards to the subcompact crossover segment. "We're going to have to figure out how to go forward to grab that share."
In the year since Colleran took over as Infiniti's American VP, the focus has definitely been on launching the QX50 and keeping the momentum going on the QX60. Both vehicles saw healthy sales increases in 2018 -- year-over-year gains of 50.6 and 17.1 percent, respectively. And though crossovers are the company's main focus at the moment, Infiniti hasn't forgotten about its other passenger car offerings -- specifically, sedans. When asked if Infiniti is still committed to bolstering and expanding its sedan lineup, Colleran enthusiastically responded, "100 percent yes. Not even a question."
"We are going forward in the future and working on programs on sedans," Colleran said. Infiniti sold 34,763 examples of its Q50 in 2018, making it the brand's second best-selling vehicle. The larger Q70, meanwhile, saw just 4,479 sales -- a 22.4 percent decrease over 2017's similarly meager 5,772 sales.
Still, as Infiniti looks into 2019 and beyond, crossovers are at the center of what's ahead. The QX Inspiration Concept, which debuted at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, previews what's possible from a design standpoint as Infiniti moves toward an electrified future. The company has already said it'll launch electrified versions of all its cars -- as well as a new dedicated EV -- beginning in 2021.
"2021 is not very far away," Colleran said. And referring to how a QX Inspiration might transform into a road-going product, Colleran said "you can see that the vehicle is starting to take shape."