Infiniti’s emphasis on sporty driving coincides with the luxury brand’s launch of the redesigned Q60 coupe this year.
YOKOHAMA, Japan — A year and a half after taking the helm, Infiniti President Roland Krueger is repositioning the luxury brand with a focus on sporty driving with the new S-badged performance models.
The brand is also debuting a fresh global tag line, “Empower the Drive,” to accompany the U.S. launch of the redesigned Q60 coupe this year.
Nissan Motor Co.’s premium brand will fortify its lineup with an expanded range of Red Sport trim packages, Krueger said at a briefing this month at Nissan’s global headquarters here.
For a small brand such as Infiniti, standing out means picking your battles, he said.
“I would call it the next step of evolution,” Krueger said. “We want to be a leader in some of the technologies and some of the performance. That is an ambition of us, No. 1.”
Infiniti is staking a claim to three areas: engine technology, autonomous drive systems and design. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is betting the formula will turbocharge Infiniti’s meager sales and lift it into the upper tier of luxury marques.
Last year, Infiniti sold 215,250 vehicles worldwide. In the first six months of 2016, sales were up 7 percent to 110,200.
Krueger: “We want to be a leader in some of the technologies and some of the performance. That is an ambition of us, No. 1.”
Infiniti hopes to get on more luxury shopping lists by focusing on what’s under the hood. That starts with a new VR30 twin-turbo V-6 engine in the next Q60. Infiniti’s first twin-turbo, it will deliver 400 hp.
Krueger said other powerplants are on the way. While declining to give details, he dangled plans for a new engine technology he called “truly new and revolutionary.”
The ultimate goal is cultivating more performance cred.
Infiniti has stopped short of rolling out a full-fledged performance subbrand such as Mercedes-Benz’s AMG or BMW’s M. But it has moved in that direction with its Red Sport stamp.
Denoted by a red “S” on tail and side panels, the performance trim debuted this spring on the 400-hp version of the Q50 sedan and was extended to the current Q60.
That will be applied to other models with beefy engines and suspensions, said Krueger, who was recruited to Infiniti from BMW to lend German flair.
“We will have this differentiation in the luxury space,” Krueger said. “It’s a bit more subtle. It is connected to the engine and the engine performance and also the suspension. But we are going into exactly what we call a grade walk of this kind of vehicle, one by one.”
At the same time, Infiniti will piggyback on the autonomous driving technologies being introduced by its corporate sibling brand Nissan. The systems for both brands will be marketed as ProPilot.
The technology will appear in phases, starting with a single-lane, self-steering function. The next step will allow automated driving across multiple lanes, and the rollout will culminate in a sophisticated autonomous system that will allow “intersection autonomy.”
Krueger did not give a timeline, but Nissan aims to launch all three by 2020.
Dovetailing with Infiniti’s new tag line, however, it will be autonomous drive with a twist.
“We want to be driver-centric yet passenger minded. So we will not take the driver out of the equation,” Krueger said. “At the same time, we will have autonomous technologies that give the car additional capabilities that the driver chooses to use or not.”