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Infiniti’s Michael Bartsch Talks About the Future and Being a Challenger Brand

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LOS ANGELES – Michael Bartsch joined Infiniti seven weeks ago as the head of the Americas region. This week he made his first auto show appearance and shared some insight into his first months on the job, where the brand is going, and growing, in the future.

Q1: What are you excited about in terms of future product from Infiniti?

Michael Bartsch, Vice President, Infiniti Americas: What is really exciting about this brand is that the door has been opened and I’ve looked in. And, when you see what is being planned in the small hatch segment, the small SUV segment, the large passenger vehicle segment, even what is being planned on the really high aspirational level, you can’t help but get excited. What I can say is that this Q30 is very much a lighthouse. It points in the direction of where the Infiniti brand is going to move in the next few years.

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Q2: Where are the opportunities for Infiniti?

Bartsch: Fifty percent of the industry profits come from 12 percent of the market. And that 12 percent of the market is the premium segment. The reality of it is that the Infiniti brand has always just been another product within the Nissan organization. Now it is independent; it stands on its own two feet. Our orbit now is Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and everything we do we have to look critically in the context of those brands. And we have to ask ourselves: Are we operating at the level of the mindset that those customers expect? If we are not, then we are not going to compete. And if we are not, we have to ask ourselves why, and how do we improve and how do we get there. That is going to be the real challenge.

Q3: What do you mean by young-minded customers? Is that an age qualification?

Bartsch: Young minded is a mindset; it has nothing to do with age. It’s about connectivity. It’s about the lifestyle that we’ve moved into. This high-technology, not-defined-by boundaries, very-complex, multi-tiered lifestyle.  The days are gone where a car is one dimensional.

Q4: Ever look back at your decision to join Infiniti?

Bartsch: I love telling everybody that when Johan (de Nysschen) invited me to join, to be able to have one more big adventure before you get rolled out in the corporate wheel chair, is incredibly exciting. I mean this is a really rare opportunity. It’s rare when you have a brand that is in a good place but with the opportunity to take it to an even higher place. And you get up in the morning and you head out, and of course there are moments when you think “goodness.” But, at the end of the day, instead of worrying about how you are going to tweak 20 cars here and change market share by half a percent there, we are talking about a monumental shift of volume that is both short term and long term. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

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