Things to know about Infiniti
Last week we took a look at Seat. Infiniti is another brand that is new to New Zealand, at least in an official sense (used imports are hardly uncommon on our roads). This week we answer five questions we bet you can’t wait to ask about the Japanese luxury brand.
Where does it fit?
Infiniti is part of the massive Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance that includes 10 brands. As well as the three in the name, Infiniti, Renault Samsung Motors, Dacia, Alpine, Datsun, Venucia (a Chinese-market brand) and Lada are all in the club.
Infiniti leads the luxury charge for the Alliance, with many of its cars having Nissan equivalents in the Japanese domestic market. However, an increasing number of models are Infiniti-specific, albeit based on other platforms, such as the 370Z-based Q60 coupe and the Mercedes-Benz A-class-based Q30 hatch and QX30 SUV. While most of its models are built in Japan, the QX60 SUV was the first Infiniti to be produced in a foreign market (the US), while some are now also produced in China and the UK.
How old is it?
Infiniti launched in the US in November 1989, 11 months after Toyota launched its Lexus luxury brand there. Honda had launched its Acura brand in the US a few years earlier and Mazda followed with its Efini brand (confusingly pronounced ‘‘Infini’’) a few years later.
Why the US? Well, it seems that Japanese government had introduced voluntary export restraints to the US market, so exporting and building luxury cars in the US was more profitable for the Japanese manufacturers. Plus, if all your friends were jumping off cliffs, wouldn’t you do it too?
Does it race?
Yes and no. Between 1996 and 2001 Infiniti supplied engines to a number of teams in the Indy Racing League (now known as Indy Car). The engine was based on the V8 Nissan VH engine used in the Infiniti Q45, but was significantly down on power compared with other engines in the field.
Infiniti almost entered Formula 1 in 2011, with the Renault engines in the Red Bull cars expected to be rebranded, but the deal fell through and the brand merely sponsored the existing powerplants; although Infiniti did become the team’s title sponsor in 2013. The lack of results and increasingly poor relationship between Red Bull and Renault saw that fall apart in 2015, with Infiniti now a sponsor of the Renault F1 Team.
Did you say Mercedes?
Indeed. Mercedes-Benz and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance have a ‘‘technology partnership agreement’’ that sees them share components and technology, but also saw the development of the small Infiniti Q30 hatch and QX30 SUV using the Mercedes-Benz A-class architecture and engines.
Mercedes and the Alliance also funded and worked together on the new MFA2 platform (that will underpin the next generation A-class). But Nissan recently announced that Infiniti would not be using the platform, as it ‘‘was not performing well enough to absorb Mercedes’ technology costs’’.
Isn’t it all confusing?
Now? Not confusing at all. Previously? Very confusing.
Back in 2013 Infiniti rationalised its model designations, with all conventional cars (sedans and hatches) starting with the letter ‘‘Q’’ and SUVs starting with ‘‘QX’’. The two numbers denote its place in the range – the larger the car, the larger the number.
Prior to this remarkably simple nomenclature, it was chaos. Cars had one letter (M,J, Q, whatever) while SUVs had two (QX or EX). The numbers represented engine size, except for the QX4 SUV – which had a 3.3-litre engine, rather than the 400cc one the badge suggested.
This led to BMW threatening to sue Infiniti over its intention to use the ‘‘M’’ nomenclature on all of its performance models.