Infiniti taps F1 star Vettel for help with performance subbrand

Infiniti is getting input on its Q50 Eau Rouge from F1 racing star Sebastian Vettel.
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German Formula One racing star Sebastian Vettel is providing Infiniti product strategists tips to help them develop a performance subbrand inside the luxury marque.

Vettel, the 26-year-old four-time F1 world champion, already has been test driving a prototype of Infiniti's Q50 Eau Rouge at the Millbrook Proving Ground in England and providing feedback to Infiniti.

Vettel, who holds the title of director of performance at Infiniti, will weigh in on the handling, suspension, components and packaging of several upcoming Infiniti models, says Michael Bartsch, vice president of Infiniti Americas.

"Sebastian's interpretation of a performance car brings a very contemporary perspective to it," Bartsch says. "Once somebody of that credibility and that skill set test drives a car, then the benchmark is set.

Sebastian Vettel

"Our engineers and designers use a certain set of performance parameters to make sure a car sits well within a broader market. But now we're talking about a car that will be just hard-edged performance," he said of the proposed 560-hp Eau Rouge.

"His interpretation will be extremely important for that car for the premium it will command."

But Vettel's input on the Eau Rouge -- which has not yet been approved for production -- is only the beginning of a move toward an Infiniti performance subbrand, along the lines of Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance division, Bartsch says.

"Infiniti will create a sport or tuner version of various models," he says. "The Eau Rouge is the tip of the stick on that."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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