Infiniti will launch two high-performance flagship models says boss Johan de Nysschen, featuring powertrains developing as much as 600bhp.
Infiniti has been considering a flagship model for several years, both the Essence and Emerg-e sports concept cars being explorations of the issue. But production versions of the Emerg-e and Essence “will not be coming,” says de Nysschen.
Instead, there will be a “high performance flagship positioned well above the Q70 saloon, and also a halo high-performance car for the brand.” One will have “multiple seats”, by which he means more than two, while the other will be more sports orientated.
Speaking at the Detroit motor show, de Nysschen said: “It will not be mid-engined like the Emerg-e, nor a hybrid. We’ve got to use the powertrain in more than one car for economies of scale reasons, so it can’t be mid-engined. With these models launched, Infiniti will have a range spanning outputs of “160bhp to 600bhp.”
Infiniti’s mainstream model range is also developing fast, “although the growth won’t begin yet,” says de Nysschen. “But the new product cadence will be very strong from 2016 through to 2019, with two major launches every year - we’re having to stagger the launches to give our engineers breathing space.”
The first major model will be the Q30 crossover, which goes into production in late 2015, after that come replacements for the Q60 coupé and convertible - these will retain their elegant, sophisticated look, says Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura - and a model jointly engineered with Mercedes. “But the next two years will be very demanding,” says de Nysschen. “We’ve got to upgrade our dealers and exploit the new Q50 and QX60 while the rest of the range is ageing.”
De Nysschen is in no hurry to introduce a model beneath the Q30, although he acknowledges the potential for a model to compete with the Audi A1 or Q1. “Young-minded, premium customers are our psychological target,” he says. “But we want to entrench ourselves as a high-end brand before we move down, so it will be beyond 2020 before we do anything here.
In the meantime, Infiniti’s new model strategy will need to address the brand’s limited appeal in regions other than the US market that it was originally developed for 25 years ago.
Asked if Infiniti is working in Europe, Nissan product boss Andy Palmer candidly said, “No, but it wasn’t expected to. Judge us by 2020. But the brand is very profitable”, with 50 per cent growth in China, and record global of 172,000 units. “We’ve got to get people used to the name,” he says - hence the Formula One sponsorship. Palmer added that the intention is also to get over a “design philosophy that’s different to the German marques and doesn’t send you to sleep.”