Error parsing XSLT file: \xslt\FacebookOpenGraph.xslt The BusinessCar Interview: Barry Beeston, Infiniti
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The BusinessCar Interview: Barry Beeston, Infiniti

Date: 21 November 2016   |   Author: Debbie Wood

Not many car manufacturers would be able to claim growth of 200% in 2016 - however, there aren't many firms as new to the industry as Infiniti.

Yes, volumes are small, but the premium arm of Japanese giant Nissan is concentrating on getting the foundations right for real growth, and according to the company's new northern Europe regional director, Barry Beeston, all eyes are on Infiniti.

"It's a really exciting place to work at Infiniti - you don't often get the opportunity in the UK to develop and grow a premium brand that hasn't been established for very long. It really is the chance of a lifetime to do this and the industry is watching."

A new team

When Beeston moved over to Infiniti there were just two people working in the fleet team. Over the past six months this has grown to eight, including a new head of fleet sales, Jonathan Reynolds, and a dedicated role for remarketing, residual values and SMR.

According to Beeston, having the right team in place is the first fundamental step to growth in fleet and it's the most important place to start.

"We've now expanded the team to eight people, which is an appropriate number for our current size in the market. However, as volume grows, we will have to look to expand the team further," he tells BusinessCar. "It starts with the team. The UK is a very complex place to operate in and you need a team which is dedicated not only to fleet but to specific areas within fleet."

Organic growth

This year Infiniti forecasts it will sell 2,500 cars and Beeston is quick to point out that any growth achieved needs to be sustainable and through the right channels.

"Sales are good. Numbers are small still, but the percentage growth is very substantial. We're well on track from a volume perspective," Beeston says.

"My view is that it has to be sustainable, and we need to ensure our growth is through organic channels and we're able to support the customer fully through the life cycle of the vehicle."

Another area of focus for Infiniti is expanding its dealer network. The firm currently has 11 sites with a 12th due to open before Christmas. Another two are expected to join the network at the beginning of next year and the manufacturer is looking to quickly increase up to 25 sites.


Infiniti is also looking to quickly grow its bank of authorised repairers to up to 18 by the end of March 2017, and will look for support from the other brands within the group, Renault and Nissan.

"It's fundamental with the fleet industry that we have the right coverage, manage expectations and ensure that all of our customers have a service point close by to them," says Beeston.

Making sure the team can support growth is important, and Infiniti is keen the department expands ahead of sales to maintain the level of service fleets need and expect. The company is looking to grow in line with the market, with 50% of sales coming from fleet.

"For me, it's about developing a business that has all the right elements to service the customer on an ongoing basis. As we grow we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place and ahead of that growth," Beeston says.

"Putting the car into a company is only the first step - managing that relationship through the life cycle of the product is critical and we need to make sure that the people, systems and procedures are in place already."

Although Infiniti is clear that there'll never be a merging of the brands in the alliance from a public perspective - Infiniti is, and will remain, a very separate entity - Beeston is keen to explore opportunities within the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and the firm already has Pan-European agreements in place, something the team will look to explore further in the UK over the coming year.

"At this point in time we perhaps haven't maximised the opportunity from those agreements with the large corporate and global clients. It's important that we do that moving forwards."

Building the line-up

It seems that 2016 has been something of a milestone year for Infiniti models with the launch of the Q30 and QX30, which have fast become the brand's biggest sellers.

The new Q60 Coupe's arrival is imminent in the UK too. It will rival the likes of the Audi A5 and BMW 4-series, although traction in fleet will be limited as it's currently only available with a petrol engine.

The current Q50, launched in 2014, has also been an important car for the firm, and although the popularity of the D-segment saloon is waning in the UK, Beeston believes there will always be a need for this type of vehicle in fleet. 

"People talk a lot about the growth in crossovers and the SUV sector; however, there's still a significant number of D-segment products being run by fleet companies, and with our Q50 we have a strong contender," he says.

The firm's next-generation 2.0-litre petrol engine technology, the VC-Turbo (Variable Compression Turbo) was unveiled at the Paris motor show in September, and according to Infiniti it promises to offer the torque and efficiency of an advanced diesel powertrain - without the equivalent emissions.

QX Sport Concept

Its arrival in the UK is yet to be confirmed, but it's been strongly hinted that the engine will make its first appearance in a new mid-sized SUV that is due to come to the UK in 2018, and the QX Sport concept, also at the show, is a strong indication of what we should expect.

"Many manufacturers are going down a certain path, but for Infiniti to go against the norm and produce this kind of engine is exciting," says Beeston.

Although the manufacturer is not looking to hybrid or electric technology in the short term, it has a lot of options available if it decides to move into e-mobility, due to its alliance partners. According to Beeston, Infiniti would be able to act very quickly in the market. 

"In Paris we clearly showed the direction we are going in with the VC-Turbo engine, rather than going the hybrid plug-in route. However, the technology is there - it's just not a focus of ours for the short term," says Beeston. "We are in a positive environment with the alliance. You can see what's happening with Renault and Nissan and those options of technology are there. We're constantly assessing whether or not it's right for this brand.

"I think for us, the opportunity is available quite quickly if we decide to go that way. At the moment we are looking at this enhanced petrol opportunity; that's not to say that it won't happen in the future - that's the strength of the alliance."

Building awareness

At just eight years old here in the UK, the biggest challenge facing Infiniti is brand awareness, and Beeston admits that not enough people know the Infiniti name or what it is, which is an issue that needs to be addressed moving forwards.

Having a presence at key industry events is an important objective for the fleet team, and a recent one-year partnership with Leaseplan on a new car-sharing service is also expected to help build awareness further.

"Leaseplan is trialling some of our cars with their corporate clients, which is ongoing - it's similar to car sharing at corporate bases. It's all about building awareness within fleet," Beeston says.

As awareness grows, Beeston believes that sales will naturally follow, and although he admits that the firm has a long way to go, in the next five years he would like to see Infiniti viewed as a trusted brand in fleet, which, so his experience at Nissan taught him, is hard to earn.

"It's going to take some time to establish the brand and build awareness in the fleet industry. I'd like to see a sustainable business is five years' time. I'd also like to see that when we interact with the industry, their view is positive, not just for the product but also for their experience with us," Beeston concludes. "If we achieve that then I think we should be really proud because the growth will come naturally. But being a trusted brand in the fleet arena takes some earning."