FORWARD MOTION

Dubai 2016 | ENERGY & INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jürgen Schmitz, Managing Director of Infiniti Middle East, on the company's operations in the region and the future of smart cars.

Jürgen Schmitz
BIOGRAPHY
Jürgen Schmitz joined Infiniti in the Middle East as General Manager in 2011 with 20 years’ experience in the automotive industry. He was previously Regional Director, Infiniti Central Europe, in which role he was responsible for the sales and marketing functions and development of the dealer network in 10 European markets. Prior to that he had worked with several automotive brands for around 15 years, both on manufacturer and importer side. Schmitz assumed his current responsibilities as a Managing Director for the Middle East region in June 2014.

Last year was incredibly good for Infiniti Middle East in terms of the company's performance. How would you assess your 2015 operations?

On a global level, Infiniti achieved a new sales record for the 2015 calendar year with the sale of more than 215,000 cars for the first time ever, up 16% from the previous year. The situation was very similar here in the Middle East, where we sold over 8,300 cars, at a growth rate of 18%. What is also important for us is that with this result we have maintained our position as one of the fastest growing premium automotive brands in the market. Moreover, we have grown three times quicker than the market. This is always an important benchmark for us as we strive to be ahead of the market performance.

Infiniti is already an independent, stand-alone brand from Nissan. What was the reason behind this and why did the company want to create this separation?

This transition is related to the customer experience. Infiniti is the premium brand for the Nissan Corporation and we deliver what a premium customer expects. We have made a lot of progress on those in 2015. We have new centres in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and two in Abu Dhabi. Obviously this is not the end of the process with further expansions in Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE. Being exclusive is not only about hardware and selling in a premium environment, it is also about giving our staff all the training and preparation they need to treat our premium customers in the right way. We are still very much a part of the Nissan Corporation; however, we operate as an independent premium brand.

How is Infiniti adapting to the global trend of autonomous driving?

This is a big trend in the automotive industry: autonomous driving. The industry is investing in this principle and the Nissan Corporation has announced that by 2020 it will have more than 10 products that have features for autonomous driving. Looking at it from a very basic perspective, the first step to autonomous driving is cruise control and this has been available in the market for many years now. When people think about the autonomous concept they usually look to the final stage as opposed to the various phases that are required to get there. Currently Infiniti is very much a part of these stages, some of which already exist in our vehicles, which in turn come relatively close to this futuristic fully autonomous world of driving. For example, the Q50 has a lane departure warning and prevention feature and a predictive forward collision warning system.