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Infiniti to take Leaf out of Nissan’s book

Charging forward: Infiniti's first full EV will be a large luxury sedan built on stretched Nissan Leaf underpinnings.

Large luxury EV built on Nissan Leaf platform among 14 models in Infiniti pipeline

5 Mar 2012


INFINITI’S first all-electric car will be a large luxury sedan built on stretched Nissan Leaf underpinnings, according to Nissan’s executive vice-president of product development, Andy Palmer.

Mr Palmer said the three-box electric vehicle (EV) is one of 14 cars in the pipeline for Nissan’s luxury brand, with others including the all-new third-generation Infiniti G – the company’s BMW 3 Series competitor – and an entry-level hatchback being developed in league with Mercedes-Benz on the German company’s MFA platform that spawned the A-class and B-class.

The two Infiniti models will arrive on the market within two years and are regarded as critical to Infiniti’s plans to drive its volumes from the current 170,000 units a year to 500,000 by 2016.

Speaking to GoAuto in England ahead of the Geneva motor show, where Infiniti will unveil a range-extender hybrid sportscar concept called Emerg-E, Mr Palmer disclosed that Infiniti’s full EV would have Leaf underpinnings, but with advances in both range and power.

The Leaf has an 80kW electric motor that is good for between 100km and 120km on a full charge.

16 center imageLeft: Infiniti Etherea concept.

Mr Palmer said that, while the Leaf was regarded as a C-segment model, the new Infiniti EV will be D-sized, or about the same scale as a Ford Mondeo.

Mr Palmer indicated that the car would also use Leaf-based underpinnings, such as battery and powertrain technology, but that the new vehicle would be scaled up to suit the larger size.

He said Nissan engineers would have little trouble enlarging the Leaf platform.

“Speaking as an engineer, I can say a platform really doesn’t exist,” he said. “It is all to do with the modules – the powertrain, front suspension, cooling package and so on.

“The bits of metal that hold those modules can be engineered and tooled up relatively cheaply.”

Mr Palmer described the entry-level hatchback – previewed the vehicle as the Etherea concept at the Geneva show last year – as an Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series competitor.

As well as this joint-venture vehicle, Infiniti is set to get two four-cylinder engines – a petrol and a diesel – from Mercedes, along with an all-new V6 diesel.

Mr Palmer also revealed that Nissan was working on a new petrol V6 – probably a replacement for the acclaimed VQ V6 used in a wide range of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, including the three Infiniti models that are due to kick off the uppercrust brand’s revival in Australia this year.

Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell confirmed that the new G series sedan would be introduced into the Australia range when it became available – probably in late 2013 – as would the entry-level hatchback, which will become the only front-drive vehicle in the Infiniti range.

Because the G sedan is not too far away, Infiniti is not taking the current model in Australia, preferring to wait until it can launch the fresh variant.

However, it is introducing the G37 coupe and cabriolet in December, as those models will not be replaced for some time.

Mr Palmer said that, while Nissan had a goal of 10 per cent global luxury car share by 2016, its targets were “more about the quality index”.

He said Infiniti had been given carte blanch “by the boss” (Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn) to turn Infiniti into a “proper global branch” of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, while at the same time going after a larger global market share.

He predicted that Infiniti – expanding from the current 33 markets to 72 by 2016 – would overtake Lexus in sales volumes by 2014 or 2015.

Mr Palmer said Infiniti’s advantage was its “very human, very warm” range and customer service.

He used the Japanese word “omotonashi”, meaning hospitality, to describe this feeling.

“We want to be more fun, actually,” he said.

Part of that fun might be delivered by the Emerg-E sportscar, which would become Infiniti’s first plug-in range-extender vehicle, using a 1.3-litre petrol engine linked with a battery-powered electric motor.

Details of the new vehicle will be revealed at Geneva tomorrow.

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