Over the years, Infiniti’s management has made some head-scratching moves. The brand, launched around the same time as Lexus, decided to show rocks and trees – and not the actual products – as it launched, which led potential buyers to wonder just what the heck Infiniti was. Now, Infiniti has a decent – albeit not full – lineup consisting of the G and M cars, and EX, JX, FX, and QX crossovers, all with model names that describe their engine displacement, so it must be time to blow things up.
So that’s exactly what they are doing. Gone are the names mentioned above. Every car will be called “Qxx” where xx no longer indicates engine displacement (where 37 used to mean 3.7 liters, for instance) and the numbers will now explain their position in the lineup’s hierarchy. Remember the M45/37? That model is now the Q70. The G37 coupe/convertible becomes the Q60, and what would have been the next-generation G25/37 will be called the Q50 when it makes its debut in Detroit in a few weeks. So no, there won’t be a new Q45, and if there is in the future, it won’t be the Infiniti flagship.
It’s certainly a different idea than most of Infiniti’s competitors have chosen, where Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz more or less have model names that describe their engine displacement, or at least what their engines would displace if they were naturally aspirated and producing similar power figures. But running through a few of Infiniti’s other competitors in my mind, it occurred to me that Volvo actually uses a similar scheme. Volvo’s sedans all have “S” names, wagons have “V” names, and crossovers have “XC” names. The accompanying numbers indicate their position in the model hierarchy, with higher numbers being “better” models.
But the thing is, Volvo worked their way into their naming scheme over years and with the transition – or at least mid-cycle enhancements – of their models. Aside from the G replacement (called the Q50, of course), every vehicle in the lineup had a different name in 2013 than it its nearly-identical 2014 counterpart. This will lead to buyer confusion, which will potentially lead to lost sales.
Why did they pick Q? According to Johan de Nysschen, Infiniti’s Hong Kong-based worldwide president, consumer research in markets around the world found a favorable reaction to the letter Q as an automotive name. More specifically, in the United States, research found that consumers still see a strong association between the brand and the letter Q. Consumers in Europe associate the Q designation with “a high-performance car with subtle styling.” Imagine – all of that from a single letter. I think they may be paying their marketing consultants a bit too much to come up with this crap.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m entirely wrong about this. Maybe this is the right move for Infiniti. But the cited rationale for the new name – to “reflect “Infiniti’s desire for clarity and cohesiveness as it embarks on ambitious growth plans, including significant expansion of the Infiniti portfolio” seems to be doing the opposite of improving clarity. The JX was just launched in March 2012, and is selling well for Infiniti. Now it will have a different name just as it’s getting good traction with buyers.
And the notion of the new names adding more space in the lineup for additional models? Well, there’s obviously room numerically below the Q50. There are the multiples of five in between the Q50, Q60, and Q70. But wouldn’t it seem that this new naming scheme is more limiting than having an entire alphabet to play with? There’s no Infiniti A, B, C, D, E, F…you get the idea. If the car names all end in zero, they can add the Q10, Q20, Q30, and Q40 on the low end, and Q80 and Q90 on the high end.
We’ll see how the buying public feels about this naming convention change. I suspect that the reaction that Infiniti got today was not exactly what they were hoping to see from the automotive media.