SAN FRANCISCO--Sales of the Infiniti M sedan hybrid will be low, but the model is important to the brand's image, Infiniti told dealers at its make meeting.
Ben Poore, Infiniti Business Unit vice president, told dealers the hybrid will be priced midway between the M37 and the M56.
Poore said the car, which uses Nissan's first in-house hybrid-drive system, will feature prominently in a wave of TV commercials this spring that is tied to its sponsorship of NCAA basketball.
He told dealers at the meeting Infiniti has doubled its college basketball tournament spots from a year ago. The increased exposure, with Infiniti commercials running in all opening round and Sweet 16 games, will coincide with wholesale deliveries of the hybrid to dealers. He said retail sales could begin by the end of March.
Bruce Lamb, chairman of Infiniti's National Dealer Advisory Board and general manager of Infiniti of Memphis, said dealers hope the hybrid will put Infiniti onto the shopping list of more luxury buyers, whether or not they intend to buy a hybrid.
"It will become our halo car," Lamb said.
At the 2010 make meeting, Poore reminded dealers, Infiniti had forecast a 25 percent increase in sales for the year. "We came in at 28 percent," he said. "I think it's important that everyone knows that we can hit our objectives."
Poore said a key objective for 2011 is improving customer satisfaction ratings. J.D. Power and Associates scored Infiniti as "poor" in customer relations last year.
He said Infiniti is taking multiple actions, including sending a task force of five factory employees to dealerships around the country to evaluate performance on various operations as part of a best-practices study. He said the evaluations are free and would cover about 60 dealerships this year.
He said Infiniti also is beginning a matching incentive program for dealership personnel. The factory will pay $200 a month, matched by individual dealers, toward the lease of a vehicle for personnel who achieve performance targets to improve customer service.
(Source: Automotive News)