Concept Sedan Bound for Detroit Is Infiniti's Styling Future, but Is a New Flagship Viable?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
concept sedan bound for detroit is infiniti s styling future but is a new flagship

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.

[Image: Infiniti]

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  • Chocolatedeath Chocolatedeath on Dec 21, 2017

    Infiniti has needed a Q45 replacement for about 10 years now. If they hadn't waited so long then this would not be an issue. Yes I realize that the market has shrank since then however if they are innovative then they can use this as another opportunity. In order for them to play at the playground they want to play in they are in need of a top tier flagship. I would go the BMW route and create my 7 series competitor and then use most of that platform to also remake the Q70/M56 as well. From the ground up make it a V6 plugin and regular hybrid with a V8 with every do-dade available. With 6's now making upwards of 400hp this should not be an issue. With the V8 being a range topping plugin at 600 hp. You dont need abunch of lengths as the Q70 will remain just as long as the Q70L so the "Q90" can be MB S class length. Or just make the Q90 all electric and be done with it. S Class size topping out at 90k.

    • See 2 previous
    • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Dec 22, 2017

      @Inside Looking Out Your area the whole market. In the US sales are way down. Plus it's about total profit and revenue, not just margin. A company like Lexus would be better off going all in and maximizing profit on the RX/NX/ES than wasting money on flagships nobody wants.

  • Kyree Kyree on Dec 21, 2017

    Well, the main problem is that the full-sized flagship sedan market is shrinking profoundly, like you said. The remaining sales pretty much slide toward the perennial favorite S-Class and the 7 Series in second place. That puts everybody in an interesting place. The A8 and XJ, for whatever reason, are also-rans within the traditional segment. They are competitive and high-tech, but the S-Class sets the standard and has that little bit more to draw in buyers willing to pay for the best. On one hand, you have the LS, which is trying to break free of the traditional three-box segment and be something a bit more sporty and unique, sacrificing a long-wheelbase variant to do so. It's shape and purpose sits between that of an S-Class and that of a Panamera. You also have a growing list of pseudo-flagship sedans...which are cars that are, for all intents and purposes, their respective autoamakers' nicest sedans...but don't have the mechanicals or prestige to compete in the big leagues. That's stuff like the Continental, S90, RLX and at the upper end the CT6 and Infiniti's own Q70L. And then you have stuff like the Genesis G90, which at least seems to belong in the $100K territory but significantly undercuts its competitors. Mind you, Genesis seems to have no delusions of it being anything other than a niche car, and it exists in the US mostly to prop up the brand's credibility, while in reality it was intended for the KDM market. The Phaeton would also belong in this category, if it were still in production. I'm not sure where this new Infiniti would position itself, but the smart money is in dominating that pseudo-luxury segment. Do not try and gun for the S-Class or one of its largely-unsuccessful competitors.

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    • MLS MLS on Dec 22, 2017

      Are 7 and A8 sales any more competitive in Europe, or does the S similarly dominate there, too?

  • Not Previous Used Car of the Day entries that spent decades in the weeds would still be a better purchase than this car. The sucker who takes on this depreciated machine will learn the hard way that a cheap German car is actually a very expensive way to drive around.
  • Bullnuke Well, production cuts may be due to transport-to-market issues. The MV Fremantle Highway is in a Rotterdam shipyard undergoing repairs from the last shipment of VW products (along with BMW and others) and to adequately fireproof it. The word in the shipping community is that insurance necessary for ships moving EVs is under serious review.
  • Frank Wait until the gov't subsidies end, you aint seen nothing yet. Ive been "on the floor" when they pulled them for fuel efficient vehicles back during/after the recession and the sales of those cars stopped dead in their tracks
  • Vulpine The issue is really stupidly simple; both names can be taken the wrong way by those who enjoy abusing language. Implying a certain piece of anatomy is a sign of juvenile idiocy which is what triggered the original name-change. The problem was not caused by the company but rather by those who continuously ridiculed the original name for the purpose of VERY low-brow humor.
  • Sgeffe There's someone around where I live who has a recent WRX-STi, but the few times I've been behind this guy, he's always driving right at the underposted arbitrary numbers that some politician pulled out of their backside and slapped on a sign! With no gendarmes or schoolkids present! Haven't been behind this driver on the freeway, but my guess is that he does the left lane police thing with the best of 'em!What's the point of buying such a vehicle if you're never going to exceed a speed limit? (And I've pondered that whilst in line in the left lane at 63mph behind a couple of Accord V6s, as well as an AMG E-Klasse!)