Opinion: Infiniti is Headed Nowhere Fast, and Needs an Entirely Different Approach

opinion infiniti is headed nowhere fast and needs an entirely different approach

After teasing, promises, and COVID-related delays, the Infiniti QX55 debuted a few weeks ago, as Infiniti eagerly drew direct comparisons between their new “classy” successor and the departed FX35/45. You might remember that shapely SUV headed to its demise in 2017 after it was left to rot for a few years, then renamed QX70. Infiniti chose to ignore its final QX70 name in the press materials and call it FX instead, which says something about their branding strategy, doesn’t it?

Today I’m here to tell you this “new car” is a perfect example of exactly what’s wrong at Infiniti, and the changes needed years ago, not sometime in the future.

Despite the framing of the new QX55 as successor to the FX, a rear-drive based and V6/V8 powered SUV, the two don’t have much in common. FX was far ahead of its time in its display of “coupe SUV” styling, and much more legitimate as a sporty luxury SUV in its context than this new crossover. Underneath FX was the platform of the G35, for the record. The QX55 offers two less than six cylinders and is front-drive, utilizing the QX50’s compact crossover platform.

The QX55 is a slightly chopped version of the relatively unsuccessful QX50, where the roof and cargo area are lower, and the whole vehicle is slightly less useful in the name of “style.” QX55 joins the ranks of the Volkswagen Atlas Cross and the Toyota Venza in this trend. The merits of such design aside, look closely at the QX55, inside and out.

Inside are a collection of Infiniti parts donated from other vehicles. Notably, the center stack, wheel, and most of the buttons hail from the Q50 sedan. That’s unfortunate given their quality in general, the resolution and size of the screens, and the fact the lot is from circa 2014. Check out those window switches!

Outside, the new ride repeats the same styling theme Infiniti has used for years, accompanied by uneven panel gaps and a tailgate which even on the press photos is visibly misaligned. There’s just nothing new on this all-new car, aside from some roof shapes. And check the key in the man’s hand in the headline photo. It debuted on the G35 in 2006.

One could extend these comments to the rest of the aging Infiniti lineup as well. The brand’s present trajectory seems to usher its transformation into a crossover-only outlet, which is absent the performance and rear-drive roots of the brand. And I suppose that’s not an awful approach, perhaps it’s even necessary for today’s crossover-hungry market.

But Infiniti is not especially good at selling crossovers, either. The QX50 had all the hallmarks of a crossover people might want, yet customers largely turned to Lexus or Acura instead. In Q3 2020, Infiniti shifted 5,500 QX50s, while Acura sold 15,038 copies of the RDX. It’s hard to fail at the compact or midsize crossover game, but here we are. And by the way, the company has zero present electrification. It tried an expensive Q50 hybrid previously with the old VQ35 engine, but that didn’t last long.

But maybe that sort of failure is a good thing from Nissan’s perspective, because as they announced previously their intention is to create a “Nissan-plus” lineup at their luxury brand. It’s beyond my understanding why anyone would willingly and intentionally draw a direct line from Infiniti to Nissan and make the former sound like a trim level of the latter, but that’s another issue.

The company has two electric concept designs in the Q and QX Inspirations, which are of sedan and crossover shapes respectively. They’re exciting in theory, and carry the new origami-inspired dented paper design theme the brand will use. But the last time they talked about them was in late 2019, and there’s no date given for these EV product releases. What’s taking so long?

Speaking as someone who willingly bought two Infiniti vehicles in past (the other was an I30), I’m also speaking as someone who’d avoid anything they make today. Unfortunately, I don’t see movement on that needle any time soon. Infiniti should work on building excitement and a solid portfolio of upcoming EV models. Create an EV (and electrified) path forward with cars people actually want to buy, and get one on sale as soon as possible. Creating slightly modified versions of the Altima-adjacent things already on sale while avoiding major product updates like a crowded restaurant in The Current Year? That’s not cutting it, and you can do better.

Infiniti needs to drop the Nissan-plus ideas and go all-in on EV development, yesterday.

[Images: Infiniti, Corey Lewis/TTAC]

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  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Dec 04, 2020

    For a long while Infiniti quality paled in comparison to Lexus. Then Lexus dropped the ball and their cars seemed cheaply made compared to earlier days. Genesis is sneaking up with an SUV that is far more attractive than Lexus or Infiniti's offerings - and it's only a matter of time before they match them in quality and reliability, if they haven't already. As far as the Germans go, they are unassailable to the Japanese and Koreans, as their customers will tolerate any abuses in the repair shop to have that badge. Infiniti needs a critical rethink as described here and Lexus needs to quit being smug about competing with the Germans and watch out for Genesis.

  • ToyotaCorona ToyotaCorona on Apr 29, 2021

    The Infiniti QX55 is a dud, period. My 2009 FX-35 with over 100K miles is much nicer in every way! 21" Wheels, better horsepower: 303 hp @ 6800 rpm vs 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm. More interior room, even now, more WOW factor. Let's face it, Infiniti / Nissan are making cars that are boring as hell! The FX-35 was in the tradition of the 280Z and other alpha cars with plenty of testosterone. On the other hand, the QX55 is a tame, lame, beta, soy-protein wimp-moibile! LOL Infiniti / Nissan never had the build quality of Lexus / Toyota or Acura / Honda, but at least their cars used to be fun. Now they are bland as well as mediocre. And still doubling down on the cheapo CVT technology? Are they trying to become Japan's answer to Hyundai? I'll take the 7-speed on my FX-35 any day over Infiniti/Nissan's CVT! Like another poster said, this is yet another deal-breaker. What were they thinking when they put an anemic 2.0 four in this thing??? What will that embarrassing 6.4 seconds 0-60 drop down to when the engine and turbo have 5 years, 60k miles on them??? I'll pass, thank you very much!

  • SCE to AUX It's not really a total re-badge since some of the body parts are unique, and the interiors are quite different.As I mentioned the other day, the Tonale has a terrible name and a dim future.As for the Alfa team - guess what, this is how corporate ownership works. You are part of Stellantis partly because you're not viable as a standalone business, and then your overlords decide what's shared among the products.By the way: That Uconnect infotainment system found in Alfas was originally a Chrysler product... you're welcome.
  • 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.