The shiny dealership sits on the southern edge of Ottawa as the crown jewel in the 17-dealership Myers Automotive Group.
“It’s our newest and biggest dealership,” said CEO Cyril Leeder of the Myers Infiniti operation. The group spent $8 million to build the 26,000-squarefoot (2,400-square-metre), two-storey facility, which opened in December 2018. It stands as a symbol of one dealership group’s faith in the future of the luxury brand.
“If we had to do it again, we’d make exactly the same decision,” said Leeder, who doesn’t buy into the gloomy forecast for Infiniti.
The brand is hanging tough after a two-year market-share slide in Canada and worldwide. Sales of 188,944 units around the world in 2019 were down 25 per cent from Infiniti’s best year in 2018, when it sold 249,000 vehicles, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit. In 2019, Infiniti was pulled from western Europe, and its market share in the United States dropped to 0.7 per cent.
As with most other brands, the COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact. Infiniti reported that its Canadian sales were down 47.3 per cent — worse than any other major brand — (5,783 total sold) in 2020 versus 2019 and in the United States reported 2020 sales of 79,502, down 32.5 per cent from 2019.
‘BETTER DAYS AHEAD’
Yet even with such troubling signs, it is premature to write off Nissan’s 31-year-old luxury brand, say dealers, industry analysts and company executives.
“We think there are better days ahead,” said Leeder. “I like the direction they’re heading.” The three months from August through October delivered the best sales volume his company had seen for the brand since Myers opened the dealership less than two years earlier, he said.
Rob Gowe, general manager of Markham Infiniti in the Toronto suburb of Markham, said he is also optimistic of a resurgence of Infiniti sales. He joined the dealership in August.
“I wouldn’t be with the brand if I thought that it wasn’t going to be around,” he told Automotive News Canada.
The dealership’s parent company, Drive Autogroup, has considered expanding Markham Infiniti or even building a new structure. But the company is delaying a any action until it sees the lasting effects of COVID-19 and the popularity of new models, said Todd Lalonde, the company’s director of operations.
“The last 12 to 14 months have been a bit of struggle,” he said. “Everybody’s holding their breath on the QX60.”
Infiniti has vowed to launch five new vehicles within three years, starting with a redesigned QX60, the first full remake of the midsize three-row crossover since it debuted as the JX35 in 2013. In September, the company revealed an animated teaser of a heavily restyled QX60, which is expected to be available in 2021.
In October, Infiniti gave Canada’s dealers a glimpse of future products in a Zoom conference call. Jason Morrey, general manager of Morrey Infiniti in Burnaby, B.C., and chair of the Infiniti Dealers Group, said the new models can’t come too soon for dealers.
“Like any brand, we rely on new product. We’re needing a refresh of the lineup.”
In addition to the remade QX60, the new products include the QX55 — a coupe-inspired crossover — and a series of concept vehicles, including an electric SUV called the QX Inspiration and the QS Inspiration EV sedan. In 2019, Infiniti introduced the Canada-only Q50 and Q60 I-LINE performance sedans, and a redesigned compact QX50 crossover.
CANADA KEY MARKET