Course Change for Infiniti As Nissan Throws Out Old Playbook

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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.

[Image: Infiniti]

Join the conversation
2 of 40 comments
  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jun 02, 2020

    Everything is called "Q" hilarious! I liked the old G35/37, that seemed to be a pretty nice car. But, Infiniti is just too betwixt and between. Not reliable or well-built enough to take on Lexus, not sporty enough to take on the Germans. Also too many models watering down any potential stars of the lineup. I'd trim the number of models and focus on quality, make every vehicle to the standard of a 1999 LS400.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jun 02, 2020

    How it is different from Lincoln? I think what Nissan+ means is a Lincoln, not a Mercury. They cannot be that stupid to turn Infiniti into Mercury.

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.