ESTORIL, Portugal — Nissan has long used its Infiniti brand to woo U.S. buyers shopping for European luxury brands. But courting luxury-car buyers in Europe will require a bit more effort.
In fact, a U.S. Infiniti dealer might be startled by the differences between American and European models when the brand debuts in October in nine European markets.
Those push-button switches in the wood-grain consoles? Gone — replaced by knobs that are closer to what Mercedes or BMW customers in Europe would expect to see.
The European models will have new heated-seat systems, new stabilizers and bigger brakes than their American cousins. A new seven-speed automatic transmission will be offered. Windshield wipers will have more powerful arms, and the window seals will be heavier.
Engineers are making 300 to 500 changes per car to prepare for the introduction.
Why? Mainly because Europeans drive faster on their major highways, and their cars must stand up to more punishing speeds and wind noise than in the United States. But it also is because these are standard features that Nissan hopes will enable an unknown luxury Japanese brand to be taken seriously by drivers of Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs.