By on May 14, 2013

Yoko Kubota of Reuters had already written half of her story before we boarded a bus this Tokyo morning. It took us north to Nissan’s Tochigi plant, where we were promised to see the new Infiniti Q50 roll off the assembly lines. Kubota wrote that “in the financial year ended March, Infiniti sold 172,615 vehicles globally, up 12.1 percent year-on-year,” that the brand needs to grow, that the backbone of Infiniti’s volume has been the G37 Sedan, and that its successor, “with a new name Q50, will go on sale in the United States in the summer.” Today, we see how the Q50 is made.

IMG_3550

Built in 1968, the Tochigi plant in Kaminokawa, a two-hour drive from Tokyo, is the backbone of Infiniti. Finished cars go from there to the port of Hitachi, and most of them go straight to Los Angeles, where, as Kubota-san has written, “nearly 14 years after the launch of its first car, the Q45 luxury sedan, Infiniti continues to be largely a U.S.- centric brand with meager overseas sales.”

IMG_3412

Before we see the plant at work, we see the first real Q50. It rolls on stage with the usual aplomb customary for such a line-off. Plant manager Ryoji Kurosawa is pleased, while CEO Ghosn backslaps a representative of the workforce.

IMG_3512

Photo-op with the boss.

IMG_3528

And the car without people in front.

IMG_3462

Ghosn is here with his personal translator, Yuki Morimoto. When he addresses the workers, he speaks in Japanese.

IMG_3967

The workers like it.

IMG_3383

The workers sit on the shop floor when the boss speaks. This is not a sit-in, and it is not unusual at all in Japan. There is a lot of sitting and kneeling on the floor. Can you imagine what would have happened in a UAW shop?

IMG_3822

You can sit on, and, if necessary, eat off the floor because it is immaculate. The slippers are here for a reason.

IMG_3858

In other plants, one might be forced wearing shoes with steel caps. In Tochigi, you see a sign that forbids the wearing of shoes at all. The shop is as sacrosanct as a Japanese house, where no one would dare to soil the serenity of the home by wearing shoes. It has been that way for thousands of year, and it won’t change. Footwear is removed at the entrance to help keep the house clean.

IMG_3854

This rule applies to all. Even the CEO and his translator would not dare to desecrate the clean shop floor by wearing shoes.

IMG_4001

On to the next part of the plant.

IMG_4760

This is where the front end goes on the car. It is done with a jig. The jig is cleverly hidden by a cart with parts. The cart zooms in front of me whenever I lift the camera.

IMG_4242

Actually, taking pictures is not allowed in this part, and I am nonverbally reminded of that by Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen. You met him a while ago.

IMG_4696

We see how quality checkers probe the surface of the car for impurities that can’t be seen, but felt with the touch of a thinly gloved hand.

IMG_3891

CEO Ghosn tries his hand as a quality checker while Murimoto-san translates, and while Infiniti-chief Johan de Nysschen looks away.

IMG_3568

Soon, this car will be en-route to America, where it is “scheduled to go on sale in summer,” as Ghosn promises. On the bus, en-route back to Tokyo, Yuko Kubota already had her story on the wire. I wish I’d be half as fast.

In case you wish more driving impressions  and less arm waving, I refer you to a test drive presented by someone who is far more attractive than yours truly.

 

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

20 Comments on “Inside The Industry: With Carlos Ghosn At The Infiniti Q50 Line-Off...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Hopefully they will redo the M so that its basically drives like a large version of this car. I feel the M has lost its way somehow. I like Infiniti better when they are the Japanese BMW. They are lost when they try to emulate Lexus.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Lexus meets Jaguar XJ, at least upfront.

  • avatar
    Macca

    Shouldn’t that be 24 years since the launch of the Q45? Infiniti was launched in 1989 in the US.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Why does the new Q50 front grille echo the new “spindle” grill on the Lexus IS cars? Can’t we think of something different.

    Interesting about the shoes. I’m sure that would be an OSHA violation in some portions of a US plant, where steel-toed shoes are required in case a worker drops something heavy on his foot. I suppose the Japanese philosophy is that the worker needs a reason not to do something bad like drop something that isn’t supposed to be dropped.

    Regarding Japanese homes, the shoeless principle makes a lot of sense . . . until you have a dog as a pet. How does that work, Bertel? Or do Japanese not have dogs as housepets?

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Dogs in Japan live inside Louis Vuitton or Prada bags. So it’s not an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      “Why does the new Q50 front grille echo the new “spindle” grill on the Lexus IS cars? Can’t we think of something different.”

      Imitating Sloyota seems to be all the rage in the car industry lately. Doesn’t really bode well for the future of automotive excitement.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Infiniti has been doing a smaller version of the “spindle” grill before Lexus supersized it and besides, others like Hyundai and Holden have done similar grill designs before Lexus.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    No shoes seems like a major safety hazard. Wow….

    As far as the rest of the car, I guess it looks alright, but nothing as nice, or seems better, then about every other car over the $30k range.

    Never get Lexus, or Infiniti. Only Infinti that seemed kind of cool was that M45. Kind of stood out at the time.

  • avatar
    James2

    JdN looks glum because he’s regretting the stupid naming scheme he dreamed up for Infiniti.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    Car looks good — especially the burgundy one in the first pic. Always liked their looks better than Lexus, but the interiors seem a notch below, specifically the hard plastics and cheap looking leather.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    It’s a sharp looking car, and Infiniti needed this. I think the current M series is straight up ugly and the G35 is getting stale.

    My issue with Infiniti is they seem to cut corners in odd places that always seem to remind you that it’s a Nissan, especially in the interior.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Is it just me that thinks Ghosn look a lot like Tardar the Grumpy Cat?

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    1989 to 2013 == 24 years, not 14.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    You gotta sit on the floor, can’t wear shoes, and you have to look at the guy they bribed from Audi. I think I’ll buy a new CTS instead. Ed! Let’s go for a ride in my new Crapillac.

    Not.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    The guy besides the materials rack and the QC inspector are wearing steel caps. The shoes however seem to be inside the fancy thongs shown in the other picture.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    So would this new Infiniti Q50 be the new JDM Nissan Skyline?

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Well, where’s the 5.0L V8? With that being said, I truly despise this new naming system. If you see the car in my avatar, you obviously see why I have so much beef with this.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India