Infiniti at 30: Special Editions and Uncertainty

infiniti at 30 special editions and uncertainty

As it blows out the candles on its 30th birthday cake, Infiniti’s biggest problems aren’t rocks and trees, but sales. That, and a shaky financial foundation underpinning its parent’s house.

Unlike in 1989, when the fledgling premium brand tempted buyers to pick up a new Q45, um, sight unseen, Infiniti is doing all it can to draw pairs of eyes to its real, physical vehicles, launching an Edition 30 trim package to mark the anniversary.

What does Edition 30 bring to the table? Standard safety features and blacked-out trim pieces, mainly. On the Q50, Q60, QX50, QX60, and QX80, ticking the birthday box brings a slew of driver-assist niceties to the table, among them Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist, Around View Monitor, Backup Collision Intervention, and Predictive Forward Collision Warning.

Normally, one would need to spring for the optional ProAssist package to bring these onboard. Added to these electronic saviors are a black chrome grille surround, fender trim, side-view mirrors, rear finisher, and dark-finish wheels.

Everything else remains the same. On sale this fall, the Edition 30 crop will tempt buyers at the end of a year that promises to be even worse than the last. The Infiniti brand pushed itself to a post-recession high water mark in 2017, unloading 153,415 vehicles in the U.S. and capping off six consecutive years of sales growth. Considering the brand had dwindled into five-figure territory by 2011, this was an achievement in itself.

And yet momentum stalled as the industry cooled off. Infiniti’s current rate of contraction outpaces that of the industry. While the decline from 2017 to 2018 came in at 2.7 percent, sales though the end of July show a year-to-date loss of 12.5 percent. Vehicles like the recently revamped QX50 remain in the red (QX50 sales fell 2.3 percent, year to date), while passenger car volume is down 29.9 percent thus far in 2019. Its utility vehicle lineup posted a 2.5 percent drop.

The only vehicle showing consistent gains is the flagship QX80, refreshed for 2019, which saw its popularity rise 18 percent this year. Luckily for Infiniti, that’s a vehicle with beefy margins.

As Nissan struggles to overcome its financial slump, all the while resisting the urge to boost incentives, Infiniti finds itself with a stable of mostly shrinking models and a future steeped in uncertainty. Come 2021, all new Infiniti models will be electrified in one way or another ⁠— hybrids, including Nissan’s novel e-Power system, and pure electrics, the latter crop heralded by a procession of concept cars numerous enough to risk spreading confusion. Ominously, one broke down before reaching the stage at this year’s Detroit auto show.

America’s appetite for EVs is no sure thing, and potential demand for an electric Infiniti has to take the popularity of present-day models into account, at least to some degree. Earlier this year, Infiniti pulled out of Europe after failing to ignite a spark.

The road carrying Infiniti into the future lies under stormy skies.

[Images: Infiniti]

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  • Jason Jason on Aug 12, 2019

    I was looking for a new car last year, I wanted a RWD coupe or sedan that wasn't ugly or boring. Infiniti didn't even warrant a trip to a dealer for me. They're ugly and boring. Even the Redline. I bough a heavily discounted Kia Stinger, it's flashier than I wanted but it's fun and comfortable.

  • Sckid213 Sckid213 on Aug 12, 2019

    My prediction is that the Infiniti brand will not survive the next economic downturn in the U.S. Honda should use the excuse of a recession to put Acura out to pasture, too. I have always felt the majority of Honda resents the Acura brand and sabotages it, hoping it fails. Doesn't help that I thought I saw a new RDX in profile in a parking lot the other day. Oops, turns out it was an HR-V. Same low-end design language. Styling-wise Acuras do not look like they are worth even half of their MSRPs. If either of these brands closes up shop, there's a built-in network of dealership facilities for Genesis to slide into. Sounds crazy, but remember the changes we saw during the last Great Auto Reckoning in 2008.

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    • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Aug 13, 2019

      The division between Honda and Acura at a parts level is interesting. I've previously had a 2008 Accord and a 2004 Civic and found my local Honda dealer to be okay. I recently wound up with a 2007 TL with a bad HandsFreeLink module and thought I would order a replacement through said Honda dealer as the Acura dealer in town is neither convenient nor particularly respected. The parts guy at the Honda dealer said he couldn't find a cross reference in their parts catalog and claimed he could get in trouble for trying to order an Acura part number. This of course despite that the stamping on the trim is "Honda". I don't recall ever having that kind of experience when trying to order Buick parts from a Chevy dealer.

  • Kurkosdr Someone should tell the Alfa Romeo people that they are a badge owned by a French company now.The main reason PSA bought FiatChrysler is that PSA has the technology to enter the luxury market but customers don't want a French luxury car for psychological/mindshare reasons. FiatChrysler has the opposite problem: they have lots of still-respected brands but not always the technology to make good cars. Not to say that if FCA has a good platform, it won't be used in a PSA car.In other words, if those Alfa Romeo buds think that they will remain a silo with their own bespoke platforms and exclusive sheet metal, they are in for a shock. This is just the start.
  • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
  • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
  • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.
  • MaintenanceCosts I like the styling of this car inside and out, but not any of the powertrains. Give it the 4xe powertrain - or, better yet, a version of that powertrain with the 6-cylinder Hurricane - and I'd be very interested.