Nissan Unsure Whether to Re-Introduce New Infiniti Q Flagship Sedan
By Chris Haak
The Infiniti Q45, which had been Infiniti’s US flagship since the brand’s US introduction nearly 20 years ago, ceased production in 2006 (a 2006 Q45 is pictured at left). The car was expensive and didn’t offer significant value over the slightly smaller and far less expensive M45 sedan (a 2006 Q45 started at almost $59,000, while a 2008 M45 starts just over $60,000). Many people (myself included) probably also believe that the M45 (pictured below) is a more attractive vehicle than the 2006 Q45 was, as well.
US Infiniti dealers have been pining for a new-generation Q. The chairman of Infiniti’s national dealer council, Peter Wilson, is convinced that a flagship will come, but doesn’t know what form the vehicle will take. Mark Igo, general manager of Infiniti North America is also among the proponents of bringing back the Q.
There are two major obstacles to building a new Q. The first is Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has gone on record saying that he isn’t convinced that Infiniti needs a Q45. Ghosn is also a very dollars-and-cents oriented manager, so if there is not a strong business case for a new Q, it won’t be built.
The second obstacle is actually even more difficult to overcome: Infiniti, which was once a US-only brand, is going global. A new Q sedan no longer has to meet the needs and expectations of US consumers, but now has to satisfy customers in China, Russia, and several European markets. In China, for example, a flagship vehicle is expected to be used as a limousine with a driver. In the US, it would be expected to be large and comfortable, but still have adequate power and an engaging driving experience. Europeans would probably expect the top-of-the-line Infiniti to be smaller than Americans would, with firmer suspension capable of unrestricted Autobahn speeds.
I rode in a 1990 Q45 (pictured at left) when they were first introduced, and it was an awesome machine. Unfortunately, Infiniti’s oddball launch strategy of showing rocks and trees instead of the car led to relatively poor sales. Nissan’s response was to soften the Q45’s driver-friendly persona into a softer, more traditional luxury car. The 2006 Q45 looks like a Buick Lucerne (although the Q45 was out first), but that should not be the styling peer of your brand’s flagship. Infiniti should make a performance luxury sedan, something along the lines of a BMW 7-Series, but for less money. Add a long-wheelbase model for overseas markets where the car will be used as a limousine, and it should be a formula for the low-volume success that Infiniti would seek from such a model.
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