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Green light for Infiniti’s baby

Australia-bound: Infiniti’s Etherea concept is set to form the basis for Nissan premium brand’s new UK-built global small car.

Nissan UK plant to turn out first compact Infiniti on Benz platform from 2015

20 Dec 2012

INFINITI has confirmed that its first compact car will be built at parent company Nissan’s Sunderland plant in Britain, starting in 2015.

The car – likely to be called Q30 under Infiniti’s new naming regime announced this week – will be based on the Etherea concept hatchback shown by Infiniti at the 2011 Geneva motor show and built on the Mercedes-Benz MFA modular small car platform under Renault-Nissan’s technology sharing agreement with the German company.

The front-drive five-door hatchback will go head to head with Mercedes’ A-Class – also built on the MFA architecture – and other European premium small cars such as the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

The car will be made exclusively for global markets, including Australia where it will be one of three small models that will underpin Infiniti Cars Australia growth over the next three years.

The small cars will sit below the new Q50 mid-sized sedan – the replacement for the current G sedan – that will make its public debut at the Detroit motor show on January 14 ahead of its roll-out around the world, including Australia from late 2013 or early 2014.

16 center imageLeft: Infiniti Etherea concept.

While Nissan originally considered having the new compact car built at Magna Steyr’s Austrian factory under contract, the company announced in October that it instead would bring production in-house, at Sunderland.

The move might have been influenced by British Government support. Prime minister David Cameron indicated as much when commenting on the Nissan move: “This announcement shows how the car industry in partnership with the government continues to win important long term investment projects, in a tough competitive sector helping the UK to get ahead in the global race.”

The move will create 1000 jobs at Sunderland, which also builds the Nissan Dualis – exported to Australia – and funky Juke small crossover – also bound for Australia in 2013.

However, the decision to make the Infiniti small car there has meant there is no room for a planned C-segment Nissan car – called Note – to be built at Sunderland.

“Because of capacity limitations at Sunderland, securing the new Infiniti will mean that a C-segment hatchback previously announced for the plant in April will be manufactured elsewhere,” Nissan announced. “Sourcing for this vehicle will be decided and announced at a later date.”

Although Infiniti has not announced details of its small car’s powertrain, dimensions or performance capabilities, it is expected to be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine sourced from Mercedes-Benz under the same technology deal.

The larger, Japanese-built Q50 – a BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class competitor – is also expected to benefit from those powertrains, as will the two-door coupe and convertible versions that will come under the Q60 banner when they arrive in 2014.

We would not be surprised if the small car gives rise to similar-sized coupe and/or cabrio, logically called Q40.

Infiniti is also planning a fresh mid-sized SUV – replacing the current EX and to be called QX50 – to take the fight up to the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

That vehicle is also likely to appear in 2015, and will most likely be made in the North America under Infiniti’s plans to diversify production beyond Japan.

Also in the pipeline from Infiniti is a Leaf-based all-electric small car that was to be called LE, but that will most like get one of the new ‘Q’ names.

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