Infiniti is expected to reveal a limited-edition version of its FX50 luxury SUV blessed by F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel at next month’s Frankfurt motor show.
The Japanese manufacturer is known to be unveiling a surprise new model at the German event, but is remaining tight-lipped about its precise identity.
Infiniti forged a commercial partnership with Vettel’s team, Red Bull Racing, at the start of the season and has employed the 24-year-old driver as a global company ambassador.
Vettel has driven various Infiniti models on press and PR events, and was offered his choice of cars from the firm’s range to use as his road car. He opted for an FX50 – apparently because he wanted plenty of room in the rear for his mountain bike.
A cryptic video shot at the Geneva motor show in March offers some clues to the styling of the special model. In the short clip, Vettel is heard planning the design of a car with Infiniti’s senior vice president Shiro Nakamura.
As the pair discuss a grey matte colour that could be used on the new car, Nakamura says to Vettel ‘you drive it in white’ – a comment which is a reference to the German’s own FX50.
If the clip is to be believed, the Sebastian Vettel edition FX50 will be fitted with an F1-inspired steering wheel that features many extra buttons and controls.
The video briefly shows a photograph of a car’s cabin that is labelled ‘carbonfibre-titanium-dark grey piping’, which hints that the car will feature these materials and tones. The rare FX50 Limited Edition released in 2010 featured carbonfibre detailing on the dashboard.
Speaking earlier this year, Vettel said: "Since our first contact with Infiniti I liked their cars. A car can impress you in two ways: its looks and its handling. After I had the chance to test some cars in the range I became a big fan. They are comfortable as well as sporty when you ask for it."
It is not clear whether Red Bull Racing has had any input into the new machine. As reported by Autocar in July, Christian Horner’s Milton Keynes-based squad is keen to diversify into automotive engineering rather than get pigeonholed as purely an F1 outfit.
The most likely scenario would be that the Vettel-blessed FX50 is a toe-in-the-water exercise which, if successful, could lead to closer RBR/Infiniti involvement in the future.