Course Change for Infiniti As Nissan Throws Out Old Playbook
The course Infiniti plotted to guide it safely through the 2010s met with bad weather and hidden shoals, leaving Nissan’s premium division idled and taking on water. Sales dried up, as did its once-promising partnership with Daimler. Even a restyled compact crossover with an innovative engine failed to raise anyone’s pulse upon its 2018 debut. The thud could be heard for miles.
As it embarks on an austere new midterm plan designed to solidify its financial standing, Nissan has a new course in store for Infiniti. Say hello to the “Nissan-plus” brand.
You read last week about Nissan’s planned job cuts, production decline, and model consolidation. Fewer vehicles in fewer markets is the way forward. Well, that strategy also applies to Infiniti, which stands to become a player only in North America and China, for the most part.
After pulling the brand from Western Europe last year (while concurrently deep-sixing the unpopular QX30 small crossover), that’s where Nissan sees the bulk of Infiniti’s future volume.
“We will bring back Infiniti as Nissan-plus, in terms of product and technology,” Nissan’s chief operating officer, Ashwani Gupta, told Automotive News.
Gupta then made a pointed declaration. “Infiniti will be great again.”
Slowly shedding models and boasting a confusing product and naming strategy, it was clear a couple of years ago that Infiniti was in trouble. The brand reached a post-recession sales high in 2017, when it unloaded more than 153,000 vehicles in the United States. Two years later, that annual volume was 117,708, with Infiniti boasting its lowest market share since 2002. The first quarter of 2020 saw Infiniti sales plunge 25.5 percent.
Besides bestowing a pandemic on an already struggling marque, the current model year also saw the flagship Q70 sedan dropped — a fate that might befall the rear-drive, midsize Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe. Under the new plan, Nissan is expected to fling the Altima or Maxima platform at Infiniti and say “have at it,” leading to the development of new front- and all-wheel-drive models. Under hood (and car) will be a beefed-up version of the e-Power hybrid setup Nissan debuted in Japan a few years ago.
e-Power sees a continuously running internal combustion engine generating electrical current to feed the actual drive motor. Fuel consumption is low with such a system, but torque is plentiful and spontaneous.
While class-leading (or at least competitive) power and fuel economy have the ability to spur sales, brand appeal, name recognition, and vehicle design can’t be discounted. Infiniti has an upward hill to climb, and the new plan of its parent corp won’t bear fruit overnight. Gupta said the first new vehicle developed under the strategy won’t appear until 2023.
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