Nissan will launch its Infiniti luxury car brand in Europe next year with a two-tier distribution system, dispensing with national sales companies.

Infiniti headquarters will be in Switzerland, employing around 100 people, who will deal direct with a single dealer group in each of the 20 western European countries where the nameplate goes live from autumn 2008.

"I can imagine having a whole European dealer conference with just 20 or so people around the table," said Infiniti vice-president for Europe Brian Carolin. "That would be impossible with Nissan, where we have to have thousands."

Infiniti is currently in talks with potential distributors and dealers across Europe and expects to make signings this year and next.

The dealers will have a fresh range to sell, with four models available from "quarter four in 2008".

Those model will be the BMW 3 series-challenging G35 saloon and its coupe variant, a new X3-sized 4x4 (SUV) and the company's flagship, the FX45, a dramatically-styled coupe-look 4x4/SUV.

Carolin says dramatic styling and powerful engines will mark out Infiniti from Toyota's Lexus luxury brand: "We will be positioned more as a BMW rival, rather than Lexus, who we see more as an alternative Mercedes".

Key to Infiniti's strategy are a new sub-three-litre V6 turbodiesel, tuned with two power outputs between 200 and 250bhp, which will be available from late 2009.

All of Infiniti's model range will be new, allowing European tastes to influence interior styling and chassis settings. "We know how important that is to success in Europe," said Carolin. "The cabin quality needed for success in the US is lower than that in Europe and the new generation of Infinitis will have European levels of quality."

The G35 four-door and two-door coupe launched late last year in the US give a flavour of the models destined for Europe with modern, 'classless' styling and a strong road stance.

The next of the new generation Infinitis will be a 'soft-roader', due to be revealed at next month's New York motor show.

Based on the same rear-drive FM platform that will underpin all Infiniti models, it is promised to be as dramatic in appearance as the FX45.

Infiniti's hallmark SUV will be replaced next year and the new 4x4 will be Infiniti's European flagship from launch with a choice of V6 and V8 petrol engines from launch, followed by the new V6 diesel in 2009.

Infiniti's 5-series sized M45 is slated for replacement in 2010 and Europe will get that car the same year with the same choice of petrol and diesel engines as the FX 4x4.

Neither Infiniti's current flagship saloon, the Q45, nor the QX45, a larger-than-Range-Rover 4x4, are planned for Europe.

Julian Rendell