Andy Palmer, who is in charge of global future product planning for Nissan, says that the company’s Infiniti luxury brand is considering a sporty four door flagship to compete in the segment defined by the Porsche Panamera. A likely candidate would be Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura’s Infiniti Essence concept first shown at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show. However, an Infiniti flagship would not reach the market before 2017. It would be part of Nissan’s goal to grow Infiniti into a global luxury brand by the end of the decade.
Infiniti has not competed head to head with European luxury marques in the S Class or 7 Series segment since the early days of Nissan’s luxury brand and the original Q45. Instead Infiniti has built its brand around a lineup of sporty sedans, coupes and crossovers. “We can’t just take on the opposition directly,” said Infiniti chief Johann de Nysschen. “We have to bring our own unique flavor to the global market.”
“We won’t do a Merc S class or that type of car,” said Palmer. “We have had that before. We want a flagship car that’s appealing and different.”
While they say they don’t want to make a S Class clone, because of contractual agreements between Nissan and Daimler the Infiniti flagship could be based on Mercedes-Benz’s latest modular MRA rear-wheel-drive architecture.
Sources say that Nakamura and his team are working with the Essence’s proportions and roofline so the basic shape will be retained while adding two more doors and more interior space.
The new flagship is not a given, a business case still has to be made for it. ”We have the halo car in the plan, but it is not signed off yet,” said Palmer. “The sales of [sedans] like the Q50 and SUVs like the QX60 will have to be going well and then I can go to our approval committee.” The new 4 door coupe would possibly be named the Q100, the same moniker given to Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull F1 car, which Infiniti sponsors.
The new flagship would be part of a $6.46 billion plan to make Infiniti a significant player in the global luxury market, with a target of earning a 10% share of that market by 2020, about half a million cars annually. The current lineup is being updated and rebranded and another five models will be added to Infiniti showrooms.
Should it be greenlighted for production, the flagship will possibly be joined by a mid-engined hybrid supercar based on the Emerg-E concept, to serve as a halo for the brand’s sportier cars.