I’ve been reading some of the web threads and letters on Infiniti of late and think it might be time to put the record straight a bit on Nissan’s luxury brand.
Even though the cars are good, Infiniti already seems to have copped all manner of flak. Observations like, it’ll never take off; BMW won’t notice or care; they’re just Datsuns in disguise and it’s going to be like Lexus all over again.
Why all the hostility?
OK, let’s take the last one first. Lest we forget, Lexus was created originally for North America where over the years it’s been hugely successful and influential (yes, even Mercedes and BMW had to sit up and take notice). Europe has been a much harder slog and 20 years on, Lexus is still mostly about refinement, comfort, quality and luxury, and now eco-friendly hybrids, of course.
Driver appeal and sportiness have never been high on the agenda - until the IS-F came along, that is. And it’s here that the two Japanese brands part company.
Infiniti most definitely is about driver appeal and sportiness, just the kind of things readers of this site and mag are wired in to. Nissan has some demon engineers who turn out good stuff like the 370Z, Skyline and GT-R and when you drive the latest Infinitis, you can feel this DNA coming through.
Yes, I know, all that on its own is not enough. Until Infiniti comes up with some new clean diesels and gets C02 down to a certain level, it’ll be a blip on the radar screens. Guess what, Nissan knows that already which is why diesel power and a new rear-drive hybrid are working their way through the system as we speak. The party starts on that next year, but - yes - really should have been there from the start…
Nissan is also clued into the badge snobbery bit, which is why it’s not making any rash promises about world domination and blowing BMW away tomorrow. It look Audi, after all, the best part of 20 years to make it into the same premium car park as BMW and Mercedes.
Nissan is sensibly starting out slow and steady and, yes, much ultimately depends on how much Carlos Ghosn invests, when the diesels and hybrids come and what the dealer experience is like.
Anyway, Infiniti is not going to be like Lexus. The cars and culture are different, with Infiniti appealing far more to the (free-thinking) petrolheads among us. An attitude like that is eminently worthy of support, I’d say.