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Infiniti walking a performance/eco tightrope

No hands: Like other car-makers, Infiniti is grappling with consumer expectation around autonomous driving.

Developing powerful, clean vehicles and autonomous tech are big issues for Infiniti

29 Sep 2017


A SENIOR Infiniti executive has revealed that balancing performance expectations with lower emissions is keeping the company’s management up at night, especially when combined with the growing demand for autonomous technology.

Speaking to GoAuto at the Nissan luxury brand’s Hong Kong headquarters, Infiniti vice-president of product strategy Francois Bancon admitted that the automotive industry has changed dramatically in the past two years since the Volkswagen Group diesel emissions scandal was uncovered, with transparency and responsibility central to every manufacturer’s goals regardless of status or market positioning.

“We are facing some big challenges, one of course being all this pressure of emissions, fuel economy – real life consumption that is,” he said last week.

“And it is going to change the industry, whether it be three, four or five years from now.”

Mr Bancon said that gaining economies of scale as well as new technologies associated with Mitsubishi Motors’ experience with electrification will give all of the brands within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance – including Infiniti – improved efficiencies when it comes to implementing cleaner vehicles with lower or zero emissions.

It also may lessen the company’s dependence on Daimler for providing future small car technologies, which in turn may produce an in-house next-generation Q30 rather than one based on the Mercedes-Benz compact MFA platform.

“Now, as we move into different territory with electrification and so on, our focus is more to get synergy within the corporation – Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi and some other brands,” he said.

“Because we didn’t have the resources available within the corporation it was natural for us to work with Daimler, and we did. Now, the Alliance has become a big thing, we have more resources in terms of synergy, because as you know we have decided to amplify it within the alliance, so the partnership will be more natural with Renault and Nissan rather than Daimler.”

Managing consumer expectations and the reality of autonomous driving technology as it can or cannot be applied in society are further issues for Infiniti moving forward.

“The other (concern) is all this technology related to connectivity and autonomy… and how are we going to manage this,” he said. “Especially as a premium brand player. It’s maybe different for a mainstream brand. This is where we are today. This is the obsession right now, because there are many opportunities but also many risks in this area and so we have to be smart because we are small, relative to the premium business in general.

“And it’s an even bigger challenge for Infiniti because we are a brand dedicated to performance and we are not eager to give up on this, and performance is not the trendiest thing in the world right now.”

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