Interview With Nissan And Infiniti’s Larry Dominique

At the recent 2007 New York International Auto Show, I was fortunate to catch Larry Dominique, VP of product planning for Nissan and Infiniti, for a quick interview. He has been with the Nissan Brand since 1989, and before working with the Infiniti G37 Coupe, he worked with vehicles like the Nissan Xterra, Pathfinder, Armada, and the InfinitiQX56 SUV. We here at Roadfly were particularly interested in the all-new 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe and the premiere 2007 Nissan NISMO 350Z.


Laura Burkholder: The Infiniti G37 Coupe: What demographic are you catering towards?

Larry Dominique: Historically, coupes draw a little more heavily from male than female. What you see with our Infiniti brand, in general, is we’re a younger brand than some of the other luxury brands. Our typical demographic is in the early 40s, not 50s and 60s, so we tend to draw younger demographic, very affluent but they like to drive, which is part of what Infiniti is about. Therefore, with our G37, one of the things we believe we’re going to be able to do with this car is probably bring more women into the franchise than we have before. It’s still super performance, better performance than the last coupe, but we’ve tried to improve the mixture of the ride comfort and body roll a little bit, so we think it will draw a pretty broad audience.

LB: How have you handled your transition from active cars to the G37 Coupe?
LD: Sedan markets are obviously the biggest markets. But if you really look at coupe markets, they tend to expand and contract a lot; it is very dependent upon the new products that come into the marketplace. For coupes, if you have 2-3 or three kids, coupes are not the best products for you. I mean ingress/egress of the backseat is not very good and usually rear seat roominess is not very good, so you have to find a specific kind off demographic target to shoot towards and it really varies from time to time. We don’t get the same number of singles and coupes all of the time, so when we went into the coupe, we really wanted it to be a nice brand extension of the G35 sedan and it took off. The [initial] volume was double what we expected and it has stayed very strong. We think we have enough loyalty behind it now that the people [will] seek out our coupe. We think the G37 is going to be that much better.

LB: How are you going to enter the market that has been predominately the BMW-type luxury class?
LD: That’s interesting: Our G35 sedan competes against the BMW 3 Series, and we actually do a percentage of their sales. We sell about 50,000 sedans a year. When we introduced our first generation G Coupe, we actually outsold BMW 3 Series every year. We expect that kind of relationship to continue with the next generation.

LB: Are you going to take the approach of lifestyle branding, like the 7 Days in a Sentra campaign, for the 24/7 lifestyle?
LD: Well, coupe people are a little more different than sedan people. Coupe people, just by the nature of who they are, don’t have to convince them that is the kind of lifestyle that they lead; they know that is who they are. With the Sentra, we were kind of repositioning the Sentra into a new price range and competitive market. With the coupe, what we’re actually hoping for is a lot of loyalty from our original coupe buyers. So again, it’s a lot of wealthy men and women who like the sporty image, like the coupe, and are typically not big family people, so they’re couples or singles.

LB: Will you be using YouTube and other outlets like the Yahoo! Live music sets?

LD: Certainly, our proliferation in utilizing the Internet has been with very selective sites, i.e. really targeted. That’s the beauty of like spot-cable and internet: you can now find a specific demographic and target, and you can slice it down to micro-thing if you wanted, so I think you’re going to see a lot more of that.

LB: The Rouge: How are you going to put it out into the market?

LD: When we developed the Rouge, we looked at the marketplace for small crossover products. First of all, we thought that none of them had any energy or life to them. They were all kind of mundane and very heavily female-slanted. What we found, when we did our research, was that there are a lot of young families out there, especially the men of the families that say, “You know, I love my sedan/I love my coupe, but I really need a vehicle that can hold my family now, but God, I really don’t want to own a minivan.” So, what we found is that we wished we could have a vehicle in this small crossover segment that was more emotional, more fun to drive, and that was what the Rogue was developed for. If you look at the design of it, it’s sportier than its competitors, the QR25 engine is very high performance with 170hp, and it drives great. We added vector control on the AWD system to help corner and drive better, so we think we’ve addressed all the things these young men want with their families, including the utility they need for their families.

LB: Finally, NISMO. Why is it a good market to get into?
LD: NISMO, for us, is a brand that Nissan has been famous for, for years and years in Japan. It’s always been known for very high-performance parts and components. So for us, as we try to grow our brand in the United States, we feel that expanding the NISMO opportunity in the US and building some brand strength behind the NISMO brand is very important for because it means that more revenue for us, more revenue for our dealers. Customers who buy these high-performance vehicles from us, love it too. So the NISMO Z which we’re offering for the first time from the factory, is really our first foray of coming into that kind of opportunity.

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