I suppose I play the role of both – coach and captain

— Johan de Nysschen, President of Infiniti Motor Company Limited

“Hong Kong is our gateway to the west,
but at the same time our gateway to China”

The Hong Kong Sevens is the best-known tournament in the IRB Sevens World Series, an international rugby sevens competition.Infiniti, now headquartered in Hong Kong, sponsors this major local event, which attracts over 100,000 visitors annually.

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  • Mr. de Nysschen, you’re known for having a passion for challenges and you’re a sports enthusiast. What can a business leader learn from the world of sports?
    The truth of the matter is that you need a combination of people who are highly competent at what they do and are driven by a strong will to succeed. As we are building a new organization, we’re bringing together top talent from around the world. I think the world of sports is a superb metaphor – there are many sports teams who have run onto the field as favorites because they have the most stars, only to walk off the field in defeat, beaten by a team that was more motivated. Infiniti is the challenger brand. We run onto the field as the underdogs, but we plan to run off of it in victory.

    So, in a manner of speaking, you are the coach of your team?
    Yes, I suppose I play the role of both – coach and captain. Because I don’t stand on the sidelines, I play as well. We are a small and energetic team, filled with passion and innovation. It is my preferred personal style to work alongside the team and to really get involved in the operational elements of the business. My job as the president of Infiniti is to lead, inspire and motivate the organization as well.

  • I need to work very hard to ensure that people internalize that vision and make it their own, so that we can have alignment around the a common goal.

    ‘Be distinctive, be provocative’ – your strategy for growing Infiniti into one of the world’s leading premium car brands seems very different from what competitors are doing. What core values do you have in mind for Infiniti?
    The premium market today is dominated by the three leading German brands and they have all crafted a particular position for their brands. Infiniti disturbs their equilibrium. We will now secure membership in this exclusive club. But Infiniti would also like to present itself in a much warmer, inviting and human way. We really want to emphasize the sensuality of our brand. Our strategy is to position Infiniti as the seductive provocateur in the premium segment.

    How does this message derive from the brand values? On the one hand, there is passion, which really is the DNA of our brand and like the oil in our engine. Our engineering and technology are known for being very reliable, progressive and advanced, particularly when

  • it comes to electronics and connectivity. But there is also the element of craftsmanship and the precision of fit and finish, which we also want to bring to the fore.

    The new Q50 is a symbiosis of performance, luxury and high-tech connectivity. What do you consider its most exciting feature?
    That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! There are so many fascinating new features in the car. With Infiniti, you have all the environmental advantages but also exhilarating performance thanks to our Direct Response Hybrid drive system. Similarly, we’ve brought a world-first technology to the car in the form of our Direct AdaptiveSteering system, an electronic steering system that allows very good driver feedback and fast response to steering input, and at the same time has the flexibility to tailor the responsiveness of the car and steering sensitivity to the individual tastes of the customer. Then, of course, there’s also our new-generation connectivity system, Infiniti InTouch, which is very intuitive and brings the world that customers are familiar with on their tablet computers and smartphones into the car.

  • You once compared brand building with departing on a trip to ascend Mount Everest. What stage is Infiniti at on this trip today?
    You know, you couldn’t embark on an expedition to climb Mount Everest without careful and proper planning and a clear strategy. And I think, to follow your metaphor, that we have developed the strategy, assembled the team to help us with the ascent, and arrived at the international airport in Nepal. We have cleared immigration and customs and have been given permission to begin to execute our plan to ascend the mountain. But all the hard work still lies ahead of us.

    You’ve already initiated a lot of changes. Infiniti is going back to its roots. What’s the strategy behind this?
    The original Infiniti was the Q45 and so we are drawing back on our almost a quarter of a century’s worth of heritage. Infiniti is now going through a metamorphosis, driving through this change by dramatically expanding of our product portfolio. In the future, we will cover over 90 percent of all segments of the global automotive premium market. Today we cover less than 60 percent.

    The Infiniti portfolio is growing. you also have a lot of new markets to enter. So how do you differentiate? Are there likely to be very different models for different markets? How are you going to tackle the different demands of various global markets?
    I think one of the key challenges in the global market is that while on the one hand you have different demands in different markets, depending on the emerging needs of individual regions, on the other hand there is global consistency in premium customers’

  • expectations. And so part of our quest now is to take Infiniti from being a largely US-centric brand and expand to other global markets. This is precisely what is driving the expansion of our product portfolio so that we can develop the cars and position them in a way that is appropriate for all markets.

    Was that one of the reasons for relocating the headquarters to Hong Kong? to focus on the world market and send out a signal?
    On the one hand we want to develop an organizational culture that is entirely rooted in understanding the expectations of the premium customers. But we also have to remind ourselves that we will be the number one premium Asian brand. And we want to bring our unique Asian character to the world. We are rooted in Asia. So, when you consider all this, Hong Kong is uniquely positioned because of its role as one of the world’s pre-eminent trading centers. It is our gateway to the West, but at the same time our gateway to China.

    Infiniti has just intensified its cooperation agreement with Red Bull Racing. What does Formula One involvement bring to Infiniti?
    Formula One is a unique platform for building basic brand awareness. But it does much more than that. It is one of the most widely followed sports of any kind, and it is an ideal technology platform, it is motorsports. We will have technology transfer and direct technical involvement by Infiniti engineers in the racing team and vice-versa. In the future, we can anticipate many more high-performance versions of our road cars inspired by our racing program.

  • Regarding the technology, which of the many ideas will establish themselves and become common state-of-the-art features within the next couple of years?
    I think that one challenge facing the global automotive industry is of course sustainability. Infiniti will introduce technical advances to our internal combustion engine that will further increase efficiency, reduce emissions and improve performance. But we will also expand our portfolio of hybrid drive engines and offer plug-in hybrids. A zeroemission electric vehicle also has to be part of our future planning.

    Ten or fifteen years from now, how would you like to be spoken of at Infiniti, in the wider automotive industry, and in general? Would you like to be spoken of As the innovator of Infiniti, the re-inventor of Infiniti, the trailblazer of Infiniti, or all of the above?
    I don’t see my mission at Infiniti in any way, shape or form as one of building any kind of legacy for myself. I think that would be incredibly egotistical. No, I suppose I would like to be considered ten years from now as the president of a successful, well performing, highly appreciated and respected premium brand that has made great progress in terms of its aspirational brand character. My contribution to that will simply be to have helped to unlock the potential of the brand and harness the skill, competency and experience of the Infiniti team, to bring everybody together in a single direction and focus on our long-term vision.

    This is a great finish. Thank you, and all the best for the future.