Infiniti to rebadge lineup under Q, QX series
Brand boss says Europe customers associate Q with "high-performance"
Infiniti is renaming its entire product portfolio for the 2014 model year, returning to the letter "Q" from the brand's early history for every car and "QX" for every Infiniti crossover and SUV.
Nissan Motor Co.'s luxury division is undertaking the change to prepare for a broader array of global products, said Johan de Nysschen, worldwide president of the brand.
Infiniti's current lineup of sedans, coupes and convertibles will become the Q50, Q60 and Q70 (see box, below).
Consumers in Europe associate the Q designation with "a high-performance car with subtle styling," de Nysschen said.
"You know, unless you're really familiar with the Infiniti lineup, who knows whether a JX fits above an EX or an FX, and where does the QX fit in?" the executive admitted.
With the new system, he said, "customers will be able to figure out which fits in where."
De Nysschen came to Infiniti in July from the top post at competitor Audi of America with a mission to lift Infiniti from its Tier 2 status among global luxury brands. Audi undertook an extensive worldwide campaign to rename its model lineup in 1994.
"There is risk associated with everything, but we feel quite comfortable about doing it," de Nysschen said in a phone interview from Infiniti's Hong Kong headquarters.
He said the moment is right to bring new order to the Infiniti lineup as it steps up exports to global markets and introduces a redesigned G sedan, the brand's highest volume product. That car will be unveiled next month at the Detroit auto show.
Infiniti's other products will follow under the new naming structure over the course of about eight weeks.
Infiniti also considered renaming all its cars with a "J" and all its crossovers "JX."
"Q is an asset that is already very strongly associated with Infiniti," de Nysschen said. "It harks back to Infiniti's first product, the Q45, so it certainly has heritage for us."
He said that consumer research in markets around the world found a favorable reaction to the Q designation.
Johan de Nysschen: "... It will be a clean change and we don’t expect any negative fallout or loss of sales."
The new system breaks with Infiniti's long-standing practice of including engine displacements in its names to designate a vehicle's place in the portfolio hierarchy, such as its most expensive sedan, the 5.6-liter V-8 engine-equipped M56 sedan.
But the practice is becoming increasingly challenging for an industry that is developing new engine technologies, de Nysschen said.
"All manufacturers will face the need in the future to downsize engines to meet future emissions and fuel consumption compliance requirements," he said. "We know that consumers don't like to feel that they have to downgrade their car -- especially when the technology that will be needed to bring about this new performance and efficiency is going to have to cost more."
De Nysschen said that worldwide Infiniti sales for 2012 will be up by around 10 percent over 2011, reaching approximately 170,000 vehicles. He said the growth has come despite challenging economic conditions in Europe and Japanese-Chinese political troubles in China, which had been one of the brand's fastest growing markets.
He said Infiniti foresees double-digit worldwide growth again in 2013 despite the planned changeover of the product names.
"We need to communicate and explain it to people and also our dealers," he said. "But it will be a clean change and we don't expect any negative fallout or loss of sales.
"I have experienced this once before in my life," de Nysschen pointed out, referring to Audi's naming changeover in the 1990s, before he ran the U.S. subsidiary. "Everybody thought the end of the world had arrived. But actually, it went very, very smoothly."
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