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Infiniti Aus boss backs drive-by-wire steering

Steering committee: Infiniti is sticking by its steer-by-wire technology for the foreseeable future.

Controversial mechanical link-less steering gets Infiniti Aus approval

Infiniti logo25 Nov 2016

INFINITI Cars Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux has reiterated support for the brand’s controversial steer-by-wire electric steering system that has been the subject of media criticism and a recall campaign, while admitting that work needs to be done to convince buyers of its benefits.

Tagged Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) by Infiniti and introduced in the Q50 mid-size sedan in 2014, the “world first” steer-by-wire design was recalled earlier this year to solve a software bug that causes the steering wheel to tug without prompt when parking.

The design – which forgoes a mechanical linkage between steering wheel and the front wheels and instead uses electronic actuators to turn the front wheels – was rumoured to be dropped in favour of a conventional mechanical linkage, however Mr Roux said that was “absolutely not” not the case.

He instead insisted that media criticism of the system – centering around lifeless, arcade-game response – had been attended to with the upgraded DAS II system found in the facelifted Q50 and set for the forthcoming Q60 3.0t coupe.

“DAS is a very strong point of differentiation for us, it was a technology that was daring, a world first,” he said.

“Now we responded on several occasions to the criticism, but we most importantly launched DAS II, the second-generation of DAS that is available on Q50. We think it’s a much more refined DAS than it was in the first generation.”

Far from being canned, Mr Roux further explained that played an important role as a next step to autonomous driving.

“This is a technology innovation paving the way for autonomous driving, so it’s a very important building block in our brand strategy when it comes to our technology approach,” he continued.

“We still believe this remains a strong point of differentiation and we will be pushing DAS along the line, so we will still invest in this.”

 center imageLeft: Infiniti Cars Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux

Asked whether it was difficult to explain to customers the benefits of a steer-by-wire system over a conventional steering system, Mr Roux admitted it was a challenge but was one worth pursuing.

“What we need to do with any kind of technology is actually translate that into key customer benefits, and from that perspective it offers much more comfort, more control for the driver,” he explained.

“It’s very important for us in terms of the sales pitch to have (people) driving DAS and find that it’s a huge plus compared with driving a non-DAS vehicle.”

Mr Roux listed technology as a key pillar and selling point for a brand that, in this country, was still establishing itself in the marketplace and aiming to differentiate itself from other brands.

“We’re drawing a lot of enquiries about the brand (and) we want to focus on the products, but the first question is ‘who are you as a brand? This is the question coming from customer,” Mr Roux continued.

“‘Empower the drive’ is the brand motto and what it’s trying to say is that people that buy Infiniti are a bit different, they like to drive something different and the empowering is that our cars – through the technology, through the design – are empowering those buyers to be a different person.

“You will see on the Q60 a lot of empowering technology, a lot of technology that is not just there for the sake of technology, but technology to actually assist the driver in terms of capabilities.

“Technology is a big focus.”

The next technological step for the brand is its Variable Compression Turbo (VC-T) engine that debuted at September’s Paris motor show, which uses an articulated crankshaft to alter con-rod length to create a variable compression ratio aimed at raising power or reducing emissions depending on the conditions.

Although Mr Roux refused to disclose the product rollout of the Nissan-Infiniti world first design, he suggested that “you’ll see more communication on the VC-T turbo in the next months to come”.

Infiniti currently uses four-cylinder turbocharged Daimler/Mercedes-Benz engines in its Q30, QX30, Q50 and Q60 models, but although the new VC-T design would indicate a replacement for that shared design, Mr Roux said it was “too early to tell, too early to comment”.

“We haven’t disclosed any production rollout yet but this is a world first, a brand building block in terms of technology,” he added.

“We have been on a very good journey with Daimler with a number of good products globally and expanding, Daimler is a very good partner for us with their technology and platforms.”

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