Japanese luxury firm hopes to boost sales by sponsoring current F1 champions

Infiniti will lay the foundation for a move into higher volume sales by signing-up as a major sponsor of reigning F1-champions Red Bull Racing this season and next.

Nissan’s luxury brand is planning two new models — a front-drive Golf-sized model based on the next-gen Nissan Qashqai and a four-door versions of the Leaf EV — and wants to raise awareness of the name around the globe in preparation.

Infiniti badges and logos will appear this F1 season and in 2012 on both Red Bull Racing cars in a “marketing and sponsorship deal”.

“We’ve been launching Infiniti around the world, now we want to grow it,” says the company.

Lead driver Sebastian Vettel will drive an FX50 SUV as part of the deal and Infiniti cars will takeover as Red Bull’s road car fleet.

Although the deal was reported yesterday to include Infiniti-badging for the Renault engines that will power Red Bull this year, Infiniti says that is not the case. “They will remain Renault engines and Renault badges will still be on the F1 cars.”

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However, Infiniti is eyeing the opportunities offered by the engine down-sizing that’s coming to F1 in 2013, when four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbos with energy recuperation become the standard engine spec.

“We are moving to electric vehicles and hybrids, which fits in with F1’s move into similar technology,” says Infiniti.

Infiniti will lift sales with a Golf-sized car based around the Etherea soft-roader concept due to be revealed at Geneva.

Due on sale in 2014, it’s main competitor will be the Lexus CT200h hybrid hatchback. And although its exact styling and details like the high seating position have yet to be finalised, the production Etherea is expected to significantly boost Infiniti’s global sales towards 200k units a year. Last year Infiniti made 145k, which is expected to rise to around 165k in 2011.

Julian Rendell

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