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Infiniti pulls out of Western Europe

Retailers stay open for now but production at Sunderland to end.

Infiniti is to pull out of Western Europe, including the UK, because the company believes it cannot secure a viable future based on its current sales volumes.

Like all manufacturers selling in the EU, Nissan’s luxury arm will be required to reach an average 95g/km CO2 emissions figure across its range in 2020, or face big penalties. The brand is said to see no viable way of investing in the technology, principally electrification, to meet this requirement based on its current and forecast sales numbers.

As a result, Infiniti will cease all Western European operations by early next year and focus its operations on “its largest growth markets, specifically North America and China”. The restructuring will have no impact on Infiniti operations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, which the brand says continue to grow.

Sunderland plant hit

The decision is a further blow to Nissan’s large UK plant in Sunderland, which currently builds the Infiniti Q30 and QX30. Production of both models will cease by the middle of this year, and the news comes just weeks after Nissan announced it would no longer be building its next X-Trail model at Sunderland.

The Q30 and QX30 models are only sold in Europe and do not feature in the company’s plans for other markets. Nissan does not provide a breakdown of production figures for Sunderland, but it’s fair to say that Q30 and QX30 do not make up a significant portion of the 400,000+ cars that roll out of the factory each year.

Industry sources suggest that about 300 people are directly employed in building the two models at Sunderland, out of a total of about 7,000 employees at the factory. The company said it hopes to find alternative opportunities for these workers.

Infiniti’s European HQ, based near Geneva in Switzerland, will also be affected by the brand’s withdrawal, although the site also manages the company’s Middle East and Africa regions so some staff may be redeployed at the same location.

Infiniti The Car Expert
Infiniti centres will remain open – for now…

Infiniti’s UK and European showrooms will remain in operation for the present, while the brand takes steps to put in place continuing aftersales services for current owners of its cars, including vehicle servicing, maintenance and warranty repairs.

Ironically, the brand also states that it will be investing in electrification, from 2021 onward. It will stop selling vehicles with diesel engines while focusing on its SUV lineup in North America, and bringing five new vehicles to China over the next five years.

Infiniti launched in the UK in 2008, Nissan effectively trying to replicate what Toyota had achieved with its premium sub-brand Lexus. But the Infiniti brand has never really taken off in Britain.

According to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), Lexus registered 12,405 vehicles in the UK 2018 while Infiniti only managed 750 – down from 3,515 the year before.

For the first two months of this year, Infiniti only had 48 registrations against its name. Take out dealer demonstrators and head office registrations, and almost nobody has actually walked into a dealership and bought a new Infiniti so far this year.

Infiniti Q30 AWD road test 2019 - front | The Car Expert
UK production of the Q30 at the Sunderland plant will end imminently.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
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