By on June 1, 2020

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]

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40 Comments on “Course Change for Infiniti As Nissan Throws Out Old Playbook...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sounds like Infiniti becomes Nissan’s Buick. I predict a full lineup of stupid CUVs all based on an Altima. I’ll pass.

    The good news, though, is that I might be able to pick up a Q60 – an underrated car that I just happen to lust after – in a couple of years DIRT cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Stupid CUVs all based on the Altima – with CVTs. Why bother?

    • 0 avatar

      The Q60 is worthwhile MAYBE with the 3.0t or 400RS. If you can avoid steer by wire, and find one with leather and nav – both those should be standard on this class of car.

      But the infotainment is outdated and the trim by the center stack isn’t gonna line up.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Agreed, but for the price, with the right mechanicals, it’s hot to look at, and good to drive. That makes up for a multitude of sins.

        Unfortunately, a coupe is probably a pipe dream – my kids are still at home, so something with a backseat and a trunk is probably necessary.

        • 0 avatar

          Well if you can afford the Q60, you can afford the GS. ;)

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            True, but – no offense here – I’ve tried a GS, and it just wasn’t for me. Very, very nice car, but it was a bit too sedate for my tastes. An IS with the V-6 would probably be more my speed.

          • 0 avatar

            I have not heard positive reviews of the rear seat accommodation of the IS. And as I understand it, children tend to grow in size over time.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Meh, I don’t need a big back seat, just one I can put people into from time to time without too much gymnastics, and a halfway decent trunk. My A3 is OK on both counts, so an IS would work too.

  • avatar
    1st_one

    This is a sad day for Infiniti. It would make sense to keep the Q50 platform and continue with that instead of switching. They will not make it through this decade. The Maxima doesn’t sell in high number so an Infiniti Maxima will be DOA.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Nissan does have a new Z-car coming out that’s probably based on the Q50 platform, so maybe they decide to keep a RWD sedan and coupe. We’ll see, I suppose.

  • avatar
    Acd

    So Infiniti is the new Mercury, sounds like a great plan guys.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I still see some old G35 MT for sale.

  • avatar

    What a depressing marketing line to deliver, “Nissan-plus.” You’re admitting that your luxury brand offering is a veneer on top of mediocrity. Would they ever describe Lexus as Toyota-plus? Not a chance.

    All Nissan has meant since circa 2002 is sorta lousy sedans for fleet customers which have CVTs.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Yeah, it *is* depressing. I will say that I love the Z cars and the new Maxima is actually interesting and compelling (though I haven’t driven one).

      The big problem is that since I got my ’15 Genesis, all I can see when I look at transverse FWD cars is the giant overhanging schnoz. What’s confusing is that it doesn’t *need* to be that way. Volvo is making transverse FWD cars with fantastic proportions. But if Nissan is giving up on life and Infiniti will be putting out stuff with 2″ dash-to-axle distances, it’s really hard to see them overcoming the existing handicaps they face.

      • 0 avatar
        car driver

        infiniti will not be pure ICE or pure FWD, it will be hybrid and EV with AWD, but main drive will come from front, in some case similar to the note e power AWD.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    So Inifiniti is to Nissan what Mercury was to Ford. No bespoke platforms, just an upper trim package on the same old sheetmetal available down the street. Their only hope is to get Jill Wagner as their commercial spokesperson….she’s available since Mercury is gone.

  • avatar
    dwford

    So instead of replacing the formerly great 17 year old platform that most Infiniti models are based on, they are going to scrap it in favor of luxury cars based off the Altima? Makes no sense. Nissan already has a “we finance anyone” vibe to the brand. When that starts to rub off on Infiniti, sales are only going to get worse. Management is approaching this from a “reduce costs” perspective, rather than a “grow sales” perspective. We already say this happen once with Infiniti, when the I30 was a barely rehashed Maxima, when the G20 was just a Nissan Primera with a new badge, and when the M30 and Q45 were just old Japanese market cars brought in as placeholders. The whole late 90s Infiniti lineup was cast offs and rebadges.

  • avatar
    Mackie

    Why can’t they just kill Infiniti? I guess it will cost them more to shut it down than to keep it on life support indefinitely. Either way, it’s a cash drain Nissan doesn’t need.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Of all of those Infiniti sales, I wonder how many went into fleets. When you visit the counter and are greeted with an upgrade, I see a lot of Infiniti (and Cadillac) keys and not much else. I know for Hertz and Enterprise, if you want a luxury sedan and don’t want to spring for the very top tier (German), it’ll be an Infiniti Q50 or Cadillac.

    I think we’ve now seen the beginning of the end of Infiniti, and I really liked that brand. The excellent G35, second-gen M, FX35/45…all seems like a faded memory. They put on the thinnest veneer of luxury – the right lighting, softer leather, two touchscreens, but scratch beneath the surface, and it’s starting to come apart.

    And to think, way back when, the G35 really did take it to the 3-series, and for a whole lot less. Yes, the first-gen G35’s interior was REALLY downmarket with the quality of plastics and leather, but it had it under the hood. Now, they aren’t even in the same conversation.

  • avatar
    Carguy75

    Going fwd will officially kill off the Infiniti brand. The ctv trans in fwd will solidify Infiniti as a brand that was once great and now gone. If Infiniti buyers wanted a Maxima or Altima they’d buy one. Putting lipstick on a pig will not help them. They need to get back into performance luxury cars or they are done.

    • 0 avatar
      car driver

      infiniti will not use ICE so there will be no CVT, there is alot of misunderstanding cause all these unknowning, altima in future will be hybrid, that what infiniti will ride on, because both will be hybrid.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Infinity – luxury without luxury. What lux in qx30 or even qx50? qx60 is too much Pathfinder. This is what happens when you change the working formula, right Mazda?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Bummer… my wife LOVES her Q60.

    I think part of Infinti’s problem, beyond the stupid naming, is that in general all vehicle have tons of “luxury” options now. There was a time in which Nav, dual zone climate control, heated seats, etc required a major step up – now you can those options in your average Hyundai. So the only thing Infiniti had left was RWD. With most consumers moving into CUVs the desire for a driver’s coupe or sedan (think BMW) is a shrinking market. Sad because the Q50/60 (aka G37) was basically a Japanese BMW. However without the badge recognition Infiniti can’t get away with charging similar MSRPs to the Germans.

    While some might say Infiniti was always just a fancy Nissan having unique RWD platforms put them in a separate space, one better then Acura for sure. However being in shaky financial shape is slowly making those same unique platforms too costly, thus Infiniti seems doomed.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    The recentish rot started with the J35 or QX60, whatever its name was or is, which is a restyled Pathfinder that sells for “more” and is made in the US on the same line from Maxima bones.

    The new QX50 with a transverse engine and zippity-do-dah variable compression ratio four cylinder is already the Altima on stilts, for goodness sake.

    Must be new confused staff at Infiniti who forgot they already make what they now say they were going to make. Dumb.

    But wait! Of course! Sighs of relief all round. All they’ve got left to Nissanize is to apply slightly better paint, add better seats and some sound-deadening to the Rogue, and ta da, a Lexus NX competitor –itself a rooty-tooty RAV4 that sells for way more and comes with the world’s pokiest turbo 2.0t. That’ll save their bacon in Infiniti-land, by gad, sir.

    As for their e-Power, it’s pretty useless. The diesel loco “run the engine to power a generator to run a motor to power the wheels” isn’t exactly tailor-made for efficiency in a car/CUV. It’s called a series hybrid and is used to provide even torque to the drive wheels from electric drive in a loco. It’s not a secret system and you can use a battery to buffer the engine after the generator and run the electric motor(s), so if it were actually any good for a regular vehicle. everyone and their dog would have done it 15 years ago. It’s super cheap to implement. Tell Nissan that and no doubt the PR types will appear from behind the magic curtain and flap gums assuring us “actually it’s a fusion reactor but we wanted to keep it a secret”. Why bother admitting the truth when you can lie and get just as far? It’s the way everything else runs these days.

    • 0 avatar
      car driver

      Actually that is not correct, in cars and CUV it can produce efficiency, buy utilizing small engines, this was already demo in the infiniti emerg, and now used in the note in Japan, that small engine and buffer battery can yeild efficiency in series system.your question about why nobody did it 15 years ago was their was not better electronic available. Also if you are not aware this is how honda new iMA system also operate under 40 MPH, in series mode.this is no thinking this is test and proven.

  • avatar
    car driver

    Actually that is not correct, in cars and CUV it can produce efficiency, buy utilizing small engines, this was already demo in the infiniti emerg, and now used in the note in Japan, that small engine and buffer battery can yeild efficiency in series system.your question about why nobody did it 15 years ago was their was not better electronic available. Also if you are not aware this is how honda new iMA system also operate under 40 MPH, in series mode.this is no thinking this is test and proven.

  • avatar
    car driver

    so many ignorance,and superstitions, infiniti will be going Ev and hybrid it is simple as that, that why it and nissan can share platforms. pure ICE will be no more very soon, lexus has already hybrid most of their lexus cars, so their is no need to bash infiniti.

  • avatar
    mfrank

    It’s no different than what Acura’s doing. This is the right path forward.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Putting aside that all Infinitis were Nissans anyway (those that were sold in Japan were sold under the Nissan nameplate), the Nissan+ business model is pretty much already where they were already.

    Their CUVs had already switched to FWD and w/ the demise of the Q70, the Q50/60 was the last of what remained of “old Infiniti” (aside from the QX80 SUV).

    The Nissan+ business model is what Honda has been doing w/ Acura and even what Lexus has been focusing on these days.

    Like Cadillac, Infiniti seems to be betting on electrics being their future, but don’t think the transition will be that smooth/easy.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “We will bring back Infiniti as Nissan-plus…”

    Hey, Nissan–I know it’s 20 years old and all, but Honda still wants its playbook back.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    The infinity brand peaked early with two excellent cars the Q45 and then the G35. Afterwards it has been rapid slide down hill. Now Nissan is copying the Acura model of using Honda chassis which will hasten the Infinity brand extinction.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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