Infiniti

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Infiniti
Type Division
Industry Automotive
Founded 1989
Headquarters 3 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong[1]
Key people Roland Krüger, President
Products Luxury Cars
Parent Nissan Motor Company
Website www.infiniti.com

Infiniti (インフィニティ Infiniti?, IPA: [inɸinʲiti]) is the luxury vehicle division of Japanese automaker Nissan. Infiniti officially started selling vehicles on November 8, 1989 in North America. The marketing network for Infiniti-branded vehicles now includes over 230 dealers in over 15 countries.[2]

The Infiniti marque was formally introduced to its homeland of Japan in 2013, with the first Japanese-market Infiniti vehicle to be a hybrid-powered variant of the Infiniti Q50 to go on sale in 2014, with gasoline-powered versions of the Q50 retaining the historic Nissan Skyline name.[3] However, this does not mark the first introduction of the Infiniti brand to Japan, with the original Q45 being sold as the Nissan Infiniti Q45 in Japan from November 1989 until 1996.[citation needed]

Prior to the introduction of the Infiniti brand to Japan, Infiniti models had direct equivalents in the Japanese domestic market Nissan lineup. The Infiniti G as the Nissan Skyline sedan and coupe and previously the Nissan Primera, Infiniti M as the Nissan Fuga and previously the Nissan Leopard, Infiniti EX as the Nissan Skyline crossover, and Infiniti Q45 as the Nissan Cima. The Infiniti FX has no Nissan equivalent and is not sold in Japan. The Skyline and Cima were luxury vehicles in Japan in earlier forms, and were originally exclusive to Japanese Nissan dealership network called Nissan Prince Shop, then later called Nissan Red Stage until the Japanese dealership network was disbanded.

In 2012, Infiniti moved its global headquarters from the Nissan corporate building in Yokohama and incorporated in Hong Kong as Infiniti Global Limited, with Carlos Ghosn intending for Infiniti to have a greater focus on the burgeoning luxury market in mainland China as it forecast the country to become the largest luxury car market.[4] Johan de Nysschen was appointed to head the Infiniti division in 2012.[5] De Nysschen left the company as of August 2014 to become CEO of Cadillac. Infiniti Chairman Andy Palmer assumed de Nysschen's responsibilities.[6] Nissan appointed Roland Krüger as president of Infiniti after the chairman of the marque, Andy Palmer, resigned to join Aston Martin in September 2014.[7]

In mid-2013 Infiniti announced their Q30 Concept car would get its world premiere at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, a move which will see Infiniti start an aggressive strategy to extend the Infiniti brand into new premium segments.[8] In 2013, Infiniti's model designation will change to the coupes and sedans starting with the letter Q (SUVs and crossovers will start with the letters QX) and a number reflecting the model's place in the brand lineup. For instance, the M sedan will become the Q70 while the G sedan will be replaced with the Q50; meanwhile, the QX56 will become the QX80 while the EX will become the QX50.[9]

With its QX60 crossover (formerly known as JX35) Infiniti began to produce vehicle outside Japan.[4] In 2014, it is expected to start producing two models in Xiangyang, China, a plant operated by Nissan's joint venture with Dongfeng Motor.[4] It is also expanding in Sunderland, England, to produce a new compact car named Q30 in 2015.[4]

History[edit]

The beginning[edit]

1990-1993 Infiniti Q45

The Infiniti brand was introduced in the USA in 1989. The marketing strategy was to target the premium vehicle segments in the United States that would not have otherwise fit in with Nissan's more mainstream image, and partially influenced by the Plaza Accord of 1985. The brand was created around the same time as Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda developed their Lexus and Acura premium brands. The Japanese government imposed voluntary export restraints for the U.S. market, so it was more profitable for automakers to export more expensive cars to the U.S.

The Infiniti marque was launched with two models, the Q45, and the M30. The Q45 was based on the all new second generation JDM Nissan President on a five millimeter shorter wheelbase platform at 2,875 mm (113.2 in). Starting with model year 1992, the wheelbase matched the President's wheelbase at 2880 mm (113.4 in). The Q45 included a 278 hp (207 kW; 282 PS) V8 engine, four wheel steering, and active suspension system offered on the first generation Q45t. The car's features would have made it competitive in the full-sized "luxury" segment against the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ and Cadillac Fleetwood.

A second model was introduced in 1990, the 2-door M30, a badge engineered Nissan Leopard. It remained in production for three years as an alternative to the Lexus SC. The powertrain was the VG30E 162 hp (121 kW; 164 PS) engine and an automatic transmission. The M30 coupe was underpowered for its stock weight of 3,333 lb (1,512 kg). The M30 convertible weighed even more, due to the required body and chassis reinforcements. The appearance of the M30 had almost no resemblance to the larger Q45, and the interior was almost completely different.

Infiniti did not offer an mid-luxury sedan to match the first Japanese luxury sedan introduced to North America, the Acura Legend, which was later joined by the Lexus GS. Infiniti's first offering in the entry-level luxury segment was the Infiniti J30, which had to compete with the revised 1992 Lexus ES and was unsuccessful owing to its small interior and unusual styling to which it was succeeded in 1996 by the Infiniti I series, related to the Nissan Maxima and in 2002 by the Infiniti G35.

The Infiniti badge is a stylized representation of a road extending into the horizon, stretching to "Infiniti".

1990s[edit]

1997-2000 Infiniti QX4

In 1991, Infiniti introduced a third model, the Infiniti G20, derived from the compact and European-focused Nissan Primera.

For the 1993 model year, Infiniti introduced a four-door coupé J30 with only one engine option, the 210 hp (157 kW; 213 PS) VG30DE. This engine was from the 222 hp (166 kW; 225 PS)300ZX, the JDM Nissan Cedric, Nissan Gloria and the Nissan Cima, and was the North American version of the third generation JDM Nissan Leopard.[citation needed]

Infiniti sales were slow.[citation needed] The company's initial campaign aimed to bring about brand awareness with Zen-influenced spots that focused on nature and tranquility, without showing the actual cars.[citation needed] Designers decided not to adorn the interiors with wood accents and chrome brightwork, opting instead for a monochrome appearance focusing on padded leather and vinyl throughout. Some buyers had faux wood appliques added to areas surrounding the center console and around the interior door handles. The only item that had a bright appearance was the centrally installed analog clock in all models, a design that is maintained by the designers.[citation needed]

By the mid-1990s, Infiniti was lagging behind Lexus and Acura in sales. The Q45 had retreated considerably from its focused, taut rendition of a sporty full-size luxury sedan, having become a barely recognizable, ponderously handling sedan that earned the nickname "The Japanese Lincoln". In 1999, Infiniti revived the G20, based on the discontinued JDM Nissan Primera, a compact sport sedan whose production was halted for 1998 in Europe and Japan. The second generation G20 was marketed as a competitor to European entry-level luxury sport sedans, but it now weighed more than the first generation version. Because Infiniti continued to use the SR20DE four-cylinder engine and compact size, it fell short of sales expectations. The G20 was also marketed primarily to the wrong demographic, that being middle-aged professional women, and as such it was not as popular new as its main competition, the similarly priced Acura Integra.

In 1997, Infiniti released the QX4, modifying and adding premium accommodations to the Nissan Pathfinder, becoming one of the first luxury car manufacturers to offer a mid-size premium SUV.

Infiniti replaced the J30 mid-sized rear drive sedan with the second-generation JDM Nissan Cefiro, giving it the North American designation "I30" in 1996. It offered one engine, the 193 PS (142 kW; 190 hp) VQ30DE with front wheel drive shared with the Maxima. The I30 was redesigned for the 2000 model year, featuring an increase in power to 231 PS (170 kW; 227 hp). Infiniti made further changes to the I30's appearance and performance in 2002, upgrading the engine to the more powerful 259 PS (190 kW; 255 hp) VQ35DE; this inspired a name change to the vehicle, which became the I35. Sales and the brand, bereft of an image or a following, floundered.

2000s[edit]

2002-2004 Infiniti I35
2008 Infiniti G37 Sport

By 2000, large Japanese companies were feeling the effect of the Japanese asset price bubble, and the reduced desirability of Infiniti's led to its facing extinction. The company rededicated itself to developing a dynamic and powerful line-up of sporty luxury cars. This coincided with parent company Nissan entering into a merger with Renault under the direction of Carlos Ghosn and the Nissan Revival Plan. Car and Driver reported that Infiniti executives invited members of the motoring press to a meeting where they "swore never again to take their eyes off BMW."[citation needed] Although this effort began with a completely redesigned Q45 flagship for the 2002 model year, it was the G35 that helped improve Infiniti sales in 2003. In Japan, Nissan had a well established reputation with premium level performance sedans after Nissan acquired the Prince Motor Company and integrated the Nissan Skyline, Nissan Laurel and Nissan Gloria, originally Prince vehicles, in 1966-1968. A sports sedan replacing its Nissan Primera-based predecessor (the G20), the Nissan Skyline-based Infiniti G35, was successful after it was voted Motor Trend Car of the Year in 2003.

The release of the sport-tuned FX35/45 crossover that same year piggybacked on the G35's success. The FX used the same components as the G35 sport coupe and was designed for American tastes. It combined good handling and performance with station wagon-like versatility and all-weather capability. In 2004, Infiniti added an all-wheel drive version of the G35 sports sedan to compete with similar all-wheel drive sports sedans from Audi and BMW. Infiniti also introduced a larger SUV to compete with the Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX470. This was the 2004 Infiniti QX56 based on the U.S. market Nissan Armada.

Nissan Motors President and CEO, Carlos Ghosn, developed a business strategy to break Infiniti away from its Nissan roots. The G series helped re-define Infiniti as the "Japanese BMW", as it was aimed directly at the BMW 3 Series of sedans and coupes.[1] The M35/M45 garnered acclaim from the automotive press, winning an eight-car comparison test in Car and Driver, and the model was named the best luxury sedan by Consumer Reports.[citation needed] The M45 model featured the same engine as the Q45, and the M45 became the flagship model after the Q45 was discontinued. The Infiniti M (2003–2005) and the Infiniti G (starting in 2003) were known in Japan as the Nissan Gloria and the Nissan Skyline.

For the 2007 model year a redesigned version of the G35 sedan was introduced, followed in 2008 by a new version of the company's G coupe, the G37. The coupe was first unveiled at the New York International Auto Show. Also released in 2008 was new Infiniti EX35 compact crossover, Infiniti's entry into the compact luxury crossover market. The EX shared the G35's 3.5 liter, 306 hp (228 kW), V6 engine.

Carlos Ghosn unveiled Infiniti’s arrival in Europe at the Geneva Motor Show 2008.[10] The official launch was late-2008, and was phased over a two-year period across 21 European countries. Four models are offered in Europe: the next generation of the Infiniti FX37 and Infiniti FX50 performance SUV, the Infiniti G37, the Infiniti G37 coupe, and the Infiniti EX37 crossover. Infiniti Europe’s headquarters are based in Rolle, Switzerland.[11]

2010s[edit]

Infiniti M56

Carlos Ghosn unveiled the Infiniti M at a hotel in Los Angeles. It shares the VQ37VHR from the Infiniti G, and Nissan 370Z. Featured are new powertrains: the 5.6 L V8 (VK56VD) with VVEL, Gasoline direct injection, the Nissan-Renault V9X Engine V6 Turbo Diesel (only for Europe), and the newly developed hybrid that will include one electric motor and two clutches to allow the gas engine and electric motor to drive the rear wheels simultaneously. The lithium-ion battery pack will come from the Infiniti Essence.

At the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, Infiniti launched a new powertrain for Europe, with the new V9X Engine engine developed by the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The new engine is used in the Infiniti FX, Infiniti EX, and the new Infiniti M. The new Infiniti M made its European debut at the show.

In August 2010 Infiniti unveiled its new performance division named Infiniti Performance Line, or IPL.[12]

In 2011, Infiniti chose to sponsor the Renault engines for Red Bull Racing for the 2011 Formula One season.[13]

In August 2013 Infiniti announced that Simone Piattelli Palmarini would take up the role as head of public relations for Infiniti EMEA. Known to many in the media, Simone had previously worked for Pirelli and Ferrari.[14]

In February, 2014, the brand will be marketed for the first time in Japan. The model which will be initially introduced is a hybrid version of the Q50 and would be named Skyline. The badge engineered Nissan Skyline will continue on sale.[15]

Brand repositioning[edit]

As of 2011, the G Series (consisting of the sedan, coupe, and convertible) accounts for 60% of sales. This has been attributed to their SUVs (including crossovers) which have been seen as determinedly aimed at the narrowest of niches, a lost opportunity as SUVs are popular in the U.S. market. In contrast, at archrival Lexus, SUVs contributed half of the sales volume. In 2011, Infiniti sales fell, while other import luxury vehicles were doing well.[16] Furthermore, Infiniti's performance over practicality emphasis has resulted in its crossovers and SUVs faring poorly among women compared to offerings from Acura and Lexus.[17]

Nissan announced the return of front-wheel drive to the Infiniti lineup on August 30, 2011 with the release of the Infiniti JX.[18] It will join Toyota's Lexus brand in terms of blending front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles again; since its inception in 1990 Lexus has had front-wheel drive platforms underpinning entry-level vehicles like the Lexus ES and Lexus RX. More importantly, the JX was meant to give Infiniti a credible rival to the Acura MDX and BMW X5 crossovers that offer optional three-row seating.[2][17]

On December 17, 2012, Infiniti announced a new product nomenclature scheme where all sedans and coupes will carry a "Q" prefix while all crossovers and SUVs will carry a "QX" prefix. Instead of numbers indicating engine displacement after the prefix, the two digits will be used to indicate where in the brand's hierarchy the model falls. The first model to follow this scheme will be the upcoming Q50, which replaces the G sedan. The rest of the line will be transitioned to the new scheme by the 2014 model year.[9][3]

Sales by calendar year[edit]

Year U.S. sales[19] Canada sales[19] Europe sales[20]
2000 78,351
2001 71,365
2002 87,911
2003 118,655
2004 130,980 7,841
2005 136,401 7,672
2006 121,146 6,779
2007 127,037 6,756
2008 112,989 8,159 453
2009 81,089 7,081 1,319
2010 103,411 8,233 2,393
2011 98,461 6,936 3,686
2012 119,877 7,993 2,995
2013 116,455 8,947 2,209

Models[edit]

Infiniti's former model name designation included one letter for coupés and sedans (two letters for SUVs) and a number reflecting engine displacement. For example, the QX56 was an SUV featuring a 5.6 L engine. An exception to this was the QX4 SUV, which featured a 3.3 L engine (1997–2000) and later a 3.5 L engine (2001–2003). An "x" following the engine displacement of Infiniti sedans denoted an all wheel drive model (e.g. Infiniti G35x), "s" denoted a sport package, "h" denoted a hybrid model, "d" denoted a diesel model (e.g. M30d) and a "t" for a Touring model (older models only).

In 2013, Infiniti's model designation changed to the coupes and sedans starting with the letter Q, the SUVs and crossovers starting with the letters QX, and a number reflecting the model's place in the brand lineup. For instance, the M sedan became the Q70 while the G sedan was replaced with the Q50; meanwhile, the QX56 became the QX80 while the EX became the QX50.[9]

Current[edit]

Most Infiniti coupes, sedans and crossovers are based on the Nissan FM platform. The center of the engine is placed behind the front wheels. The exceptions are the QX80 full-size SUV that rides on the Nissan F-Alpha platform and the QX60 crossover that rides on the Nissan D platform.

Discontinued[edit]

Concept vehicles[edit]

Infiniti Performance Line[edit]

In August 2010, Infiniti unveiled its new performance division named Infiniti Performance Line, or IPL.[12]

Motorsports[edit]

Infiniti Indy car next to a production Q45
Sebastian Vettel testing at Jerez for Infiniti Red Bull Racing

In 1996, Nissan launched an effort to compete in the Indy Racing League with the Infiniti brand.[21] The engine chosen for the Indy cars was a race variant of the VH engine used the Q45s. The IRL program was quietly wrapped after the 2002 season after only a few wins.[22] The Renault engine powering the Red Bull Racing 2011 F1 challenger was expected to be rebranded as an Infiniti engine, but the sponsorship deal did not extend to engine rebranding.[23] They did become Red Bull's title sponsor in 2013, and Dietrich Mateschitz has left the door open for an engine branding deal in the future. In 2011, Infiniti signed Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel as its first global ambassador[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nissan. "Our Company". Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Infiniti Global (1989-11-08). "Brand History - Infiniti Global Official Site". Infiniti.com. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 
  3. ^ Jie, Ma. "Nissan to Sell Infiniti-Badged Cars in Japan for First Time". http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-11/nissan-to-start-selling-infiniti-cars-in-japan-for-first-time. 
  4. ^ a b c d Philip, Siddharth. "Nissan’s Infiniti Says Joint Daimler Platform Is Planned". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  5. ^ http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/06/former-audi-ceo-johan-de-nysschen-becomes-head-of-infiniti.html
  6. ^ "GM Hires Infiniti Chief de Nysschen to Head Cadillac". Wall Street Jurnal. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  7. ^ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-10/nissan-s-infiniti-premium-brand-names-roland-kruger-as-president.html Nissan's Infiniti premium brand names Roland Kruger as president
  8. ^ "Infiniti releases first image of sleek, seductive Q30 Concept". Fit4Talent.com (Fit4Talent). 28 August 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Korzeniewski, Jeremy (2012-12-17). "Infiniti queues up questionable Q and QX naming scheme". Autoblog. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  10. ^ Madslien, Jorn (6 March 2008). "Nissan launches luxury brand in Europe". BBC News. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  11. ^ Fontanelle, Anthony (26 March 2008). "Infiniti Parks In Rolle". www.amazines.com. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Migliore, Greg (14 August 2010). "IPL: Why Infiniti is Now Aiming for Performance". autoweek.com. Crain Communications. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "Red Bull boosted by Infiniti deal". BBC News. 1 March 2011. 
  14. ^ "Infiniti announces new Head of Public Relations". Fit4Talent.com (Fit4Talent). 17 August 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Skyline to be Infiniti debut car in Japan". japantimes.co.jp. The Japan Times. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "The most disliked cars of 2011". CNN. 
  17. ^ a b Monticello, Mike (2012-03-28). "2013 Infiniti JX35 AWD Full Test and Video". Insideline.com. Retrieved 2012-04-21. 
  18. ^ "Nissan's Infiniti brand shifts away from RWD-only lineup". AutoWeek. 30 August 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "Infiniti U.S. sales figures". goodcarbadcar.com. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  20. ^ "Infiniti European annual and monthly sales figures". Left-Lane.com. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  21. ^ Oldham, Scott (August 1996). "Asia Spy Report". Popular Mechanics. 8 173: 27. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  22. ^ RainMeister (14 June 2002). "IRL: Nissan Withdraws". freshalloy com. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  23. ^ "Red Bull to Use Infiniti branded Engines". Pitpass.com. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  24. ^ "Brand Ambassador - Sebastian Vettel : Infiniti". 

External links[edit]

Media related to Infiniti vehicles at Wikimedia Commons