Sales at Infiniti in 2019 were down in the dumps. While the market as a whole fell 1.2%, Infiniti brand sales were down 21%. Nissan wasn’t too far behind, with its sales sliding 9.9% year-to-year. None of those numbers look great, but Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta still sees a path forward for Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti.
“We will bring back Infiniti as Nissan-plus, in terms of product and technology," Gupta told Automotive News. “Infiniti will be great again.”
Historically-speaking, Infiniti has been “Nissan-plus” for a long time over the years. Many vehicles in its lineup have been re-skinned versions of Nissans with some luxury thrown into the mix, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There have been some standouts, namely the original Q45 with its pioneering active suspension and shockingly sporty dynamics. And then there are the G coupes and sedans, vehicles that are still desirable to enthusiasts today.
Infiniti’s current enthusiast offerings revolve around the Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe, both of which are rear-wheel-drive (or all-wheel-drive) cars with sporting intentions. There’s no equivalent Nissan sold in America, but the Q50 is the Nissan Skyline in Japan. It’s impossible to know what the fate of these rear-drive-based cars will be, but a few possibilities lie ahead. Infiniti could really lean in to the “Nissan-plus” nomenclature and repurpose the new Altima as an Infiniti sedan. More likely, however, is a move to electrification. The Nissan IMs Concept and Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept both suggest that the company is interested in creating electric sedans. A “Nissan-plus” electric sedan sure sounds a whole lot better than a front-drive-based rebadged Nissan.
Infiniti’s biggest problem at this second is the lack of new product on the market. Its QX50 crossover is the most recent big redesign we’ve been witness to, but it needed replacements yesterday for the QX60, Q50 and Q60 to be competitive with others in those segments. Both Lexus and Acura are outpacing Infiniti by a wide margin. The path forward as “Nissan-plus” also suggests Infiniti aims to be a premium brand, rather than a full-fledged luxury brand competing toe-to-toe with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. That’s consistent with how the brand’s cars have stacked up in recent years, even as it collaborated with Mercedes to put an Infiniti badge on the GLA crossover.
Automotive News’ story goes on to explore the mistakes and huge push made in the Ghosn era, with aims of 500,000 global Infiniti sales. Infiniti never came close to that number, with the high mark being 249,000 vehicles in 2018. The company found some success in reworked Nissan products before, but that means the vehicles are dependent on Nissan putting out desirable cars with a performance mindset. We sincerely hope that Infiniti can somehow claw its way back to being an affordable and fun BMW alternative, but the wait is still on. Automotive News suggests that we won’t see the new products start dropping until about 2023, which is a long time to hold out for a lineup of cars that are already long in the tooth.