BAHRAIN – Juergen Schmitz has worked in the automotive industry for just over 20 years across several brands. He joined the Middle East team in September 2011 after four years as INFINITI Regional Director of central Europe. In his current role as General Manager, his main areas of responsibility are to enhance brand power, develop the interior and exterior design of existing dealerships and increase market share. Following are his comments before the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Middle East is a strong market for the INFINITI brand having launched in 2004 and there is good overall awareness of its range. FX is probably the most popular model and was the major contributor to overall sales here for some years, but now with the broadest portfolio INFINITI has ever had, there's strong demand for all of its vehicles, especially the QX, JX and G sedan.
The region has been very receptive to our inspired performance range and as mentioned awareness, and market share, are among the best for the brand globally. In the last year sales grew by 16% versus the previous year in the Gulf region, and we expect double digit growth again for 2013 with ambitions globally to command 10% market share of the luxury vehicle segment by 2016.
INFINITI set out to do things differently to the other luxury automotive manufacturers and this has attracted customers with a similar mindset. What our customers share is passion for a rewarding driving experience, standout design, and a blend of meticulous craftsmanship and the highest level of intuitive technologies.
Having the input of a three time Formula One World Champion on our product development will clearly be of substantial value, and makes INFINITI as a car manufacturer extremely exclusive linking in with the world's highest level of motorsport. Sebastian Vettel's direct involvement with designing and developing our fastest and most exclusive model to date, the INFINITI FX Vettel Edition, demonstrates how successful this relationship is, and indeed will be for the future in his new role as Director of Performance.
Formula One attracts hundreds of millions of viewers and the Middle East's high profile investment in it, with state-of-the-art circuits and facilities in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, encapsulates its importance. Its position as a stage on which brands can be seen globally on a regular basis is unrivalled, which is why INFINITI has partnered with Red Bull Racing.
In the Middle East, we are actively supporting the partnership with experiential activities such as 'Pitstop Challenge' and 'Unlock the Race', which engage INFINITI fans and customers with the benefits of Formula One. Our customers have also been able to ride with Sebastian in the INFINITI FX Vettel Edition – which was another unique opportunity only we could offer.
The number of likes we have on our INFINITI Middle East Facebook page [almost 54k] is certainly a good start for our plans to build online engagement with customers and fans. However, we want to go further and spark more conversations and really reinforce the INFINITI experience. It is clear social platforms are the future for communicating with large audiences, but we still believe in the value of face-to-face hospitality that customers experience at our INFINITI Centres.
I think it would be difficult for anyone associated with INFINITI not to count the FX Vettel Edition as their favorite from the line-up. Apart from the styling and performance, the unique appeal of a car in which a reigning Formula One World Champion played a key role in its development, makes it stand out from the other models.
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