Concept Sedan Bound for Detroit Is Infiniti's Styling Future, but Is a New Flagship Viable?
At the end of 2017, we’ve reached a point where it seems odd to launch, or even hint at, a new large passenger car. So it’s with a furrowed brow that we gaze upon this teaser from Infiniti.
The blindingly white car you’re seeing a corner of is real, bowing at next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’s a concept that “previews a new generation of Infiniti vehicles,” the automaker tells us, so it’s no wonder Infiniti chose the large sedan category as a canvas for this design study. Generously proportioned sedans and coupes excell at showing off long, flowing lines and curves.
Of course, it’s crossovers that actually sell these days, which makes the rumors that this concept heralds a real-life flagship sedan all the more questionable.
“As a new wave of technologies begins to take shape, our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti,” said Alfonso Albaisa, the automaker’s senior vice president of global design, in a statement. “A seamless and stunning new design philosophy demonstrating Infiniti artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains.”
There’s plenty of forward-looking talk in that brief statement, so it’s not surprising that the Infiniti concept is expected to appear as an all-electric model. Albaisa said as much to Autocar back in September. The model wouldn’t be an electrified version of an existing model, he said, and would ride atop a new, dedicated platform.
It’s been years since Infiniti offered American buyers a full-size sedan. The Q45, which burst on the scene from behind a rock and tree in 1989, ushered itself out of the U.S. marketplace after 2006. The midsized M35 and M45 — the second generation of which matches the first-gen Q45 in looks, in this writer’s humble opinion — became the top-flight model, changing its name to Q70 for 2014.
Over the first 11 months of 2017, Q70 sales are up 1.4 percent — a sales hike that’s entirely the result of unusually strong March. The Q70’s annual sales are a quarter of that of the M models in 2007. Yet there’s talk of the upcoming concept morphing into a range-topping sedan, perhaps carrying the Q80 name.
It’s no secret that full-size sedans, once as common as lawn signs on election night, are quickly fading into obscurity and irrelevance. Can the type of powertrain make all the difference? With the exception of the hugely expensive Model X, electric crossovers aren’t a thing. Not yet. It makes one wonder how long of a window exists for the passenger car to shine as an EV, even one serving as a flagship technological centerpiece.
Still, EV platforms are built to be versatile. Maybe, at this early point, a green halo is more important than sales.
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