Nissan launched its Infiniti brand in Europe during the Geneva show, taking over an empty warehouse on the city’s edge to unveil the new FX50, its rival for the likes of BMW’s X5. The FX is a replacement for the current US-market vehicle, chiefly known for its dramatic styling. The new car’s look is evolutionary, retaining the original’s proportions although every panel is new. At the front the grille uses Infiniti’s “double wave” shape to create what will become the car’s like or loathe it feature. Underneath the car is a version of Nissan’s FM platform, used in the 350Z, Infiniti EX and the G37 saloon and coupé, with 54/46 front-rear weight distribution. Infiniti claims the FX will be among the lightest in its class thanks to the use of alloy doors, bonnet and a plastic tailgate, along with aluminium suspension components. There is only one engine – the new 5.0-litre V8, exclusive to the FX, with 385bhp and 350lb ft. The new Renault-Nissan V6 diesel will be available in Infinitis at the beginning of 2010, “six to nine months after the launch,” according to Infiniti boss Brian Carolin. When the car is launched in April 2009, along with the EX37 and G37 saloon and coupé, prices will be comparable with the equivalent BMW X5 – so around £53,000 for the FX50. However, it will have more equipment as standard for the price - the 21-inch wheels are standard, along with self-healing paint, electric memory seats and mirrors, electric wheel adjustment. In fact, options will be very limited, comprising paint, trim colour and stereo upgrades.
The Infiniti brand
Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has given the brand five years to become established in Europe, but is not concerned with selling lots of cars. “I am not about making Infiniti a volume brand,” he said. “Europe is a very long process. We are in a very long-term strategy in Europe.” If Infiniti is selling 25,000 cars a year by 2013, he will be happy. The emphasis is instead on quality and profit. “There must be no risk on quality. We don’t want a crowded showroom, we want everybody coming in to be happy.” Profits, meanwhile, must equal Ghosn’s benchmarks, Porsche and Lexus. “A luxury brand that makes seven or eight percent profit is doing something wrong,” he said. “A luxury brand should make 20 per cent operating profit. I don’t worry about the volume. We don’t need Europe for Infiniti volume, so it will be particularly important for the job to be well done.”