‘Original and unique’
“We have to consider how Lexus should position itself against the German 3,” Toyota and Lexus global design boss Tokuo Fukuichi told Automotive News Europe. “Of course, there are multiple aspects, for example hybrid. The new technology is important, but especially the design. Something that is original and unique and has character, something that gives a raison d’etre for Lexus.”
A production version of the Lexus model could go on sale in 2018 and would slot below the CT, the brand’s best-seller in Europe, reports said. Like the CT, a production LF-SA would be offered only with a hybrid powertrain, the reports added. When asked about the concept car following its Geneva show debut, Toyota Executive Vice President Didier Leroy said: “Many premium brands decided to downsize such as Audi with the A3 and A1, and BMW with the 1 series and the Mini. We thought, if we want to compete with them, we need to do something completely different.”
Infiniti also views design as a key to encouraging conquest sales. Nissan’s luxury arm used the Geneva show to debut a concept version of its forthcoming QX30. Infiniti said it will target younger affluent customers with the production version of the compact crossover, which will be “highly influenced” by the sleek QX30 concept, Roland Krueger, Infiniti CEO, told journalists on the eve of the show in March. The QX30 will be Infiniti’s first entry in the booming compact crossover segment. It will be a rival to the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1.
Under the direction of Infiniti Executive Design Director Alfonso Albaisa, the brand, which started sales in 1989, aims to use its youth to its advantage. “We’re an authentic brand, but we don’t play with pedigree and authenticity, it’s something we toy with but we’re a little bit more disruptive,” Albaisa told Automotive News Europe. “People will buy [Infiniti] because [the brand is] not pedigree, we’re adventurous and risk taking.”
Albaisa started Infiniti on this path roughly two and a half years ago. The results will be portrayed on the brand’s forthcoming Q30 and QX30, which will be built at a new facility within Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, England. The planned combined capacity of the new cars is 60,000 units a year. The design of both models is supposed to help Infiniti stand apart from its much older rivals. “I love Jags and Aston Martins but they’re kind of held [back] by tradition, even when they make a beautiful modern car. We don’t have that. We take life and we can shake it, turn it upside down,” Albaisa said.
While the QX30 and Q30 will share their Daimler-created platform with the Mercedes A class and GLA, Albaisa says that will not result in models that look the same.
“This Q30/QX30 [platform] could be 80 percent related to that Daimler platform but what you can do with the other 20 percent is amazing,” Albaisa said, citing the talent of the teams in Infiniti’s new design centers in London, California, Japan and China. “They don’t talk that much to each other -- we use the servers and stuff like that -- but it’s like wild horses running and feeing each other just drafting the whole brand together.”
The Q30 will go on sale in Europe in late 2015. The QX30 will arrive in European showrooms in spring 2016.