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To Europe and beyond for Infiniti

Future path: Sleek designs such as the Q50 (left) and Q30 (below) are just the beginning for an ambitious Infiniti.

Infiniti eschews US focus for sleeker visual arsenal against European marques

19 Sep 2013


INFINITI will open a dedicated London design studio next month as it strives to better adhere to trendsetting European designs.

To open in October, the hub in the British capital will focus beyond the US-orientated product that has defined the brand’s existence since launching in North America almost 25 years ago.

It follows the recent relocation of Infiniti’s global headquarters to Hong Kong, in a move designed to give the Nissan luxury brand more autonomy from the parent company.

The aim is to be less Lexus-like and more Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz targeted, backed up with a wave of fresh product that will increase the number of models by about 60 per cent and double the current drivetrain choices.

In addition, a new design centre will open in Beijing next April. Furthermore, American Infiniti fans can rest easy, since it will be swiftly followed by a new US outpost in San Diego from June.

This move demonstrates how the Japanese luxury brand won’t abandon the market that has almost singlehandedly kept the brand going since 1989’s Q45 sedan debutante.

“Expanding our global reach is critical,” says Asia/Oceania managing director, Allen Lu, speaking at the Nissan 360 global product event in California last week.

“First, we have moved our headquarters in Hong Kong,” he said. “We want to build Infiniti as an independent brand… with new products, new technologies, and to deliver what the customer wants. We will deliver new products in all of the (necessary luxury) categories.” With Daimler having a small stake in Nissan, the German conglomerate will provide technology and hardware sharing to help Infiniti break into new segments.

The first and arguably the most important of these is the booming global premium small-car class with the 2015 Q30 and its QX30 crossover offshoot.

Though completely designed by Infiniti, the front/all-wheel drive Audi A3 rival will ride on the same Mercedes-Benz architecture as the latest A-Class, B-Class, CLA sedan and GLA SUV.

“We are going to bring the quality in the interior normally found in larger-sized luxury vehicles,” Mr Lu promised.

“We want cars that exude passion, evoke passion and desire, we are here to challenge the status quo.” The recently released Q50 – replacement for the G Series sedan (not seen in Australia) as well as the G37 Coupe and Convertible launched late last year – also gains a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel drivetrains from Daimler.

Currently in 50 markets, Infiniti’s global outlook will also manifest itself in more ‘tailored’ offerings, such as the long-wheelbase Q50 and QX50 models for China.

“Our global manufacturing footprint is also expanding,” Mr Lu said. “Soon we will begin production in China and UK and tailored to local needs… while there will be a long-wheelbase Q50/QX50 for China.

“As our goal is to grow the number of Infiniti vehicles 60 per cent and double powertrains, we are ensuring brand values, from design and engineering to manufacturing and retailers, and of course product portfolio.” According to Infiniti’s global design director, Kei Kyu, more focussed attention to detail will also underpin Infiniti’s hopes of becoming a big player in the global luxury brand stakes.

“We are working to elevate Infiniti’s design distinctiveness – bold and seductive design based on Japanese craftsmanship and technology,” he said.

As expressed in a slew of motor show concepts since 2009, such as the Etherea, the Infiniti design signature details include ‘classic proportioning’ (even in transverse/front-wheel drive models like the upcoming Q30), a sharp shoulder line, a ‘Crescent Cut’ C-pillar, and a ‘Double Arch’ headlight and grille treatments.

“The aim is to have wonderful executed and classic proportions… to help create seductiveness,” Mr Kyu said.

“ The Q30 has new proportion… with a fresh sense of design and expression that feels seductive, passionate and provocative, and is in line with what new premium customers are looking for. The interior shows our latest thinking too.

“We want flowing, dancing muscularity. We are moving forward now to create a new level of evolution.”

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