Course Change for Infiniti As Nissan Throws Out Old Playbook

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • 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.

  • Stephen Never had such a problem with my Toyota products.
  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!