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Infiniti sedans to ditch rear-drive by 2021

Q forming: The Q70 looks likely to be a Chinese-market only in its next generation (current-generation Q70 shown).

Q50, Q60 and Q70 must wait three years until new Infiniti platform ready

Infiniti logo3 Apr 2018

INFINITI will not introduce any new models for the next three years as it prepares next generations of the Q50, Q60 and Q70, based on a new, electrified platform confirmed to replace rear-wheel drive with standard all-wheel drive.

The QX50 medium SUV, that will go on sale in Australia this year, is Infiniti’s final new-product reveal as it now embarks on replacing the Nissan 350Z/370Z-based FM rear-drive platform underpinning the ageing Q50, Q60 and Q70 with all-new versions.

However, Infiniti Motor Company product strategy vice-president Francois Bancon confirmed that successors to existing sedans and coupes could not lob before 2021 because the platform change required such intense development.

“All new product we do after 2021 is going to be electrified and it should be in sync with the new package or platform,” he told GoAuto at the national media launch of the Infiniti QX80 in Victoria last week.

“So year by year we are going to do this. Before thinking of extending the portfolio (beyond QX50) that is going to be our mission. All the segments are going to be the same, depending on the age of the product we have we are going to have to replace this.

“The oldest are the priority obviously, it’s not about one product versus another but it’s just about cascading management … and updating all of them. We would prefer to replace faster but we have some limits because it is a radical shift for us. It’s not about, well, you keep the platform but replace (the body design).

“When you change everything, including the manufacturing system, it is not a small change.”

Of the existing Nissan FM platform underpinning the current Q50, Q60 and Q70 – which debuted in 2001’s Nissan Skyline – Mr Bancon explained that, “We are going to have to change, this platform is a V6 platform, it is rear-wheel drive.

“We are going to have to shift because this platform is not an electrified platform. You need a battery, you need an electric motor, it’s a different package.”

However, despite the admission from Mr Bancon that the Q70 large sedan is “an old car” – having debuted with the ‘M’ moniker in global markets in 2010 – it would therefore also have to wait until at least 2021 to be replaced “because nothing is available before.” The related Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe, meanwhile, have less pressure on them to be replaced.

“I don’t know with Q50 when we need to replace, as soon as we can probably, but it will not be before 2021 for the reason we said, because it’s part of the electrification,” he added.

However, asked whether the Q50, Q60 and Q70 would keep rear-wheel-drive architecture for their next generations, in line with BMW 3 Series/5 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class/E-Class rivals, Mr Bancon replied: “Probably not.

“Probably all-wheel drive, with some distribution more 50:50 (front-to-rear) than the 60:40 we have today, so probably a little more rear distribution than we have today.

“Since you shift electric you have a motor in the front and in the back, so rear-wheel drive does not make sense anymore. So with the new generation electrified platform … it’s a bit like Audi with its four-by-four (wheel drive).”

Tellingly, the four-door sedan Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept, shown at January’s Detroit motor show, uses all-wheel drive with a turbo-petrol engine and is said to preview the next-generation design of Infiniti passenger cars.

Mr Bancon further reaffirmed Infiniti’s commitment to the passenger-car market, defending the fall of the sedan segment worldwide but admitting the next-generation Q70 would be for the Chinese market only.

“It (sedan) is a little bit declining in the US because of SUV, but globally it is not that obvious (and) I think there is a market, especially in China,” he said.

“Q70 will basically be a Chinese car at the end of the day … 60 to 70 per cent of volume will be China.

“If there is a segment that is declining at the end of the day, it’s this one.

In the US, E-Class and 5 Series segment, and Q70, is really declining. We are talking 5.0 to 6.0 per cent declining every year. The exception is China, because it is a mix of business car and family car.”

Mr Bancon would not reveal what Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi products the new platform would underpin, or if the platform has been seen.

The QX50 crossover is built on a fresh front- and all-wheel-drive platform in collaboration with Daimler – not yet seen in a large Mercedes-Benz product – and is produced in newly opened shared Mexican production facilities.

“The big idea is to share with Nissan and even Renault and Mitsubishi because it is an Alliance platform,” he confirmed.

“The big deal for us is to express the right expectation for Infiniti to make sure this common platform is capable of (our requirements), because the execution is going to be different from Infiniti to Nissan.”

Infiniti will also focus on performance over outright efficiency with its series hybrid system destined to debut in three years, which will not have plug-in charging capability but will utilise an electric motor to power the vehicle and a small, efficient petrol engine to charge the batteries (see separate story).

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