DETROIT — Infiniti President Christian Meunier has a vision for the brand, and that’s to steer it toward a combination of luxury and livability.
“Luxury should be lived in,” he told a group of Canadian press on Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “Luxury should be experienced. Luxury is not about putting a beautiful car in the garage and leaving it there and making it beautiful and mint. You have kids, you have dogs, you put mud in it, and you eat your burger or your French fries – or your poutine.”
That last one-liner highlighted his Canadian experience: Meunier was president of Nissan’s Canadian operations from January 2013 to January 2016. He moved through the role of senior vice-president of Nissan sales, marketing and operations in the United States before becoming global division vice-president for Infiniti in November 2017. He spent his first few months in that role as the de facto president for Infiniti worldwide while his predecessor Roland Krueger was on leave.
Meunier returned to second-in-command upon Kreuger’s return and took over the brand’s global sales and marketing operations. On Jan. 7 he was officially named global president of the automaker's Infiniti arm in the latest management shakeup following the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Krueger is leaving to pursue new opportunities, Infiniti said.
During his tenure, Meunier learned a great deal about the inner workings of Nissan’s luxury arm in a very short time.
“I’ve seen a lot of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things that work well and the things that we need to change,” he said.
Meunier feels that the brand can capitalize on making better use of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance resources while doing more work to differentiate itself as an experiential luxury brand.
“The designers and the R&D community have a very clear road map on what the future will be: a lot more synergies with Nissan platforms, so piggybacking a lot more on the technologies and platforms from Nissan,” Meunier said. “(At the) same time, investing more on what makes a car a luxury car, so investing a lot more money into the premiumness of the car and the performance of the car, the NVH and the attention to detail that makes the craftsmanship a big difference compared to the mainstream brands.”
Infiniti has committed to having its entire line-up electrified – either fully electric, e-Power (where a gasoline engine is recharging an electric powertrain), or performance hybrid – from 2021 onward. Meunier says this, plus a shift in design direction demonstrated in the QX Inspiration concept shown at NAIAS, shows how the brand is adapting.
“Infiniti has been, a little bit, searching (for) itself for many years, and I think we’ve found our way,” he said. “We always say we're a challenging brand, but we're going to become a real challenger. We're going to be challenging the market with very different product. And we're going to bring some interiors and styles which are not probably going to please everyone, but hopefully it will please the customers we're going after, early adopters and a lot of millennials.
“Millennials, by definition, are not really loyal to brands. They move around, they're attracted by what makes them feel their experience is going to be better.”