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  1. Analysis
March 31, 2017

ANALYSIS – Infiniti future models

Following on from the chapter on Datsun, the second instalment in a Nissan Motor future models series takes a look at what's ahead for Infiniti. After this will come two features which examine the next generation of Nissan cars, crossovers, pick-ups and SUVs.

Following on from the chapter on Datsun, the second instalment in a Nissan Motor future models series takes a look at what’s ahead for Infiniti. After this will come two features which examine the next generation of Nissan cars, crossovers, pick-ups and SUVs.

C segment/Compact

Infiniti’s smallest model is the Q30 five-door hatchback and for the moment, there appear to be no plans to add a model below this size class. 

The car’s debut was at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2015, production starting at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in early December 2015. There is another closely related model, the QX30 (see section below on Crossovers & SUVs). Sunderland supplies the car to all global markets with combined capacity of the Q30/QX30 said to be 60,000 units per annum.

This model shares Daimler’s MFA architecture with various Mercedes-Benz models such as the A-Class, a car with which it competes. There are reports which indicate that the next generation Q30, due in late 2022 after a facelift for the current car in 2019, will instead use a Renault-Nissan Alliance architecture. If that turns out to be the case, it would be CMF-C/D.

D segment/Mid-size

The Q50, which has just been facelifted, was the replacement for the G Sedan. This was the first model for Infiniti’s current vehicle naming system. Cars start with Q, followed by two numbers, while SUVs and crossovers are badged QX50, QX60 and so on.

The Q50 made its global debut at the Detroit motor show in January 2013. Production at the Tochigi plant in Japan followed four months later. The car went on sale from August 2013 in North America, the main sales region. The original standard engine in the USA was a 328hp 3.7-litre V6. Both rear- and all-wheel drive variants are available.

Infiniti’s own sales data show that for the year to date, the Q50 is the best seller in the US, followed by the QX30 and QX60.

In an unusual move, North American Infiniti dealers continued to sell the G sedan until the end of the 2015 model year, but as a cheaper model to the Q50. The former G Coupe and G Convertible also continued but changed model names to Q60. These cars have since been phased out.

A Q50 range for the European market was revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2013. The main news was the debut of the Q50 2.2d, powered by a 2,143cc four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz diesel engine. Europe’s Q50 was rolled out across the region’s dealerships from December 2013.

A long wheelbase version of the Q50 was announced at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013, but not shown. The Q50L was Infiniti’s first model to be built in China. Only the L is locally made: imports of the standard wheelbase Q50 from the Tochigi plant in Japan continue. The Q50L had its world debut at the 2014 Chengdu motor show. 

The 4,852mm long Q50L is for the Chinese mainland market only. All cars have a standard 211hp/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo engine. Production commenced in November 2014 with the first deliveries later the same month.

The turbocharged 1,991cc Mercedes-Benz petrol engine for the Q50 premiered at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2013. It went on sale in China during the northern hemisphere spring of 2014 and was launched in Europe from that region’s autumn. Turbocharged 2.0-litre engines for the European market Q50 are built at Nissan North America’s Decherd powertrain plant. The Mercedes-engined car is also sold in Japan but with Skyline, not Q50 badges. There is no Infiniti sales channel in Japan – cars are sold through selected Nissan dealerships.

The Q50 Eau Rouge concept premiered at the Detroit motor show in January 2014 but there were no engine details at that time. A modified car appeared two months later at the Geneva show, powered by a version of the Nissan GT-R’s 3.8-litre biturbo V6. Infiniti is yet to reveal whether or not it plans a production model.

Apart from new wheels, there were no changes for North America’s 2015 model year Q50. The 2016MY range, announced in August 2015, saw the rest of the world’s 2.0-litre Mercedes-Benz but Nissan-built petrol engine becoming available. There was further 2016MY Q50 news in December 2015.

A 400hp 3.0-litre turbo V6 was also new for North America’s 2016 model year, this variant having its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January 2016. In addition to the 400-horsepower configuration, which became available in a new Q50 Red Sport 400 model beginning in March 2016, a 300-horsepower version was added two months later. The VR-series engine family replaced the 3.7-litre VQ-series V6.

There were more changes for the 2017 model year, but nothing major. There is a facelift for North America’s 2018 model year. The styling update was first seen at the Geneva motor show.

The next generation Q50 is due in 2020. It should remain rear-wheel drive but may use a Daimler architecture rather than FR-L, the Nissan platform which the existing Q50 is based on.

The other model in the D segment is the 4,863mm long Q60. This coupe is a competitor for the BMW 4 Series Coupe, Audi A5 Coupe and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. For the moment, there is no replacement for the former Q60 Convertible.

The Q60 ‘sport coupe’ as Infiniti’s US importer terms it, was previewed by a concept at the Detroit auto show in January 2015. Two versions of a biturbo 3.0-litre petrol V6 engine are sold in North America, as well as a turbocharged Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder petrol engine.

Production at Nissan and Infiniti’s Tochigi plant commenced in August 2016. The stamping and assembly lines were modified ahead of the Q60 entering production. This was mainly for deep-body stamping technology and new tooling machinery for the model’s resin trunk lid. To improve quality, a new lighting system for the inspection process and a camera and video system on the assembly line were introduced. In what Infiniti claims was a world first application, the boot lid is a hybrid combination of a resin skin on a steel frame.

The new shape coupe went on sale in North America from September 2016 for the region’s 2017 model year. The car is also available in Europe, China and certain countries in other parts of the world but the USA is the Q60’s number one market.

A facelifted Q60 is due in 2020 and the next generation model in 2024.

E segment/Large

The age of the Q70 is showing in its sales performance. This big seven-year old sedan was once quite successful in the US but in February, dealers were able to shift only 414 cars. 

The Q70 gained its current name in 2013 but it was originally launched as the Infiniti M sedan.

After the arrival of the 330hp 3.7-litre V6 (M37) and 420hp 5.6-litre V8 (M56) launch variants in North America, came a (175kW) 3.0-litre V6 diesel (M30d) for Europe. All-wheel drive is available for both gasoline V6 and V8 variants. 

Infiniti Europe launched the M37 in July 2010, with the diesel-engined M30d following two months later, and the M35 hybrid following in early 2011. Infiniti Europe’s M37S debuted at the Geneva motor show in March 2010.

Two extended wheelbase versions of the M, the M25L and the M35hL, had their global debuts at the Beijing motor show in April 2012. Both went on sale in China two months later.

North America’s 2013 M Sedan range was carried over with changes to standard equipment and option packages. The main news for North America’s 2014 model year was the renaming of the M Sedan to Q70. The 2015 model year Q70 was facelifted, this car having its world premiere at the New York auto show in April 2014 alongside the facelifted Q70L. The latter was also new for North America’s 2015 model year. 

A four-cylinder diesel variant, which is sold mostly in Europe, had its premiere at October 2014’s Paris motor show. Deliveries of this, the Q70 2.2d, commenced from December 2014. The engine is the same 2,143cc four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz unit as features in the Q50 2.2d.

Infiniti may not replace the Q70 once production ends in 2018, echoing what Toyota intends to do when the rival Lexus GS comes to the end of its lifecycle. The problem with potentially giving the existing model a new body and modified architecture is the issue of the current FM platform, which dates to 2001.

Some sources believe that Nissan has struck a deal with Daimler to use the MRA architecture of the similarly sized Mercedes-Benz E-Class for certain future models. This would mean a retooling of Nissan’s Tochigi plant in Japan and that would not be a cheap prospect. However, pouring cold water on the idea of cars being made in Japan on a Mercedes platform is the fact that the new Q60 is built at Tochigi and it uses Nissan’s not too aged FR-L architecture.

Another option for a future Q70/Q70L is to manufacture the cars in China. This is probably even more complicated, though, as Infiniti is but a small part of the Dongfeng Nissan joint venture. At present, the only sedan made at the Xiangyang plant in Hubei province is the Q50L.

F segment/Luxury

The Q80 is a proposed full sized luxury sedan which some believe may be added to the Infiniti line-up as soon as 2018. It would be a much overdue effective replacement for the Q45, Infiniti’s former big luxury sedan. Several generations of the Q were sold mostly in North America from the time of the Infiniti brand’s launch there back in the early 1990s.

Sources now indicate that any revival of the Q would be likely to be a rival for the Porsche Panamera rather than the Lexus LS. To that end, it has been proposed to use the architecture of the future, second generation Nissan GT-R, including its rear transaxle – a layout it would share with the Maserati Quattroporte. There could also be a coupe derivative. 

A potential preview in the form of the Q80 Inspiration concept was revealed at the Paris motor show in October 2014. The rumours of a next generation GT-R architecture remain just that, though Nissan will have to replace its supercar at some stage within the next year or two as the model will be ten years old later in 2017.

Sources have also suggested that the Q80 may instead use the same MRA architecture as that of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This also makes the potential business case for producing a Q80 at Tochigi as it could potentially share modules with the next Q70. There again, FR-L could well be the Q80’s architecture – this platform isn’t nearly as old as FM, Nissan’s other RWD platform, and it was updated for its appearance as the basis for the new Q60 Coupe.

If there is going to be a Q80 it will likely appear in 2019, a year after the introduction of a possible new Q70/Q70L.

Crossovers & SUVs

The ESQ is a curious model. Built in Japan but available only in China, its model name is out of sync with the usual Infiniti system of a Q and/or and X but two digits. This B segment crossover is a Nissan Juke Nismo with a large ESQ on the grille and the Infiniti symbol on the steering wheel: the Juke is not sold in China.

The ESQ had its debut at August 2014’s Chengdu motor show and went on sale two months later. The replacement is expected to use the Alliance’s CMF-B architecture. It may again be a rebadged Nissan Juke Nismo. Sales should commence towards the end of 2017 or in early 2018, several months after the Juke 2 appears in Japan and Europe.

The larger QX30 is not really that different to the Q30 five-door hatchback. It is more or less the same model but with raised suspension, in the same way that the Volvo V40 Cross Country relates to the V40. A concept version of the QX30 was revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2015. The production model was revealed at November 2015’s LA auto show but did not go on sale until mid-2016.

Like the Q30, all QX30 build takes place at Sunderland in England.

Nissan North America does not sell the Q30; only the QX30. Confusingly, two of the three variants in the QX30 model range are from Europe’s Q30 range.

The QX30 uses Daimler’s MFA architecture. A facelift is expected in the final quarter of 2019. The second generation QX30 should become available during the second quarter of 2023. This should instead use an evolution of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s CMF C/D architecture.

Infiniti’s C segment crossover was briefly presumed to be the first vehicle for the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler’s forthcoming Aguascalientes 2 plant in north-central Mexico. Now, however, it appears that a possible ‘QX40‘ using Daimler’s MFA 2 architecture would be the model in question. This would be a proposed rival for the BMW X4. The factory’s official name is COMPAS: Cooperation Manufacturing Plant Aguascalientes.

The Mexican facility was officially announced in June 2014. The new factory is being built in the immediate vicinity of an already existing Nissan plant and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles when fully ramped up. The first vehicle will be an Infiniti model later in 2017, to be followed in 2018 by a Mercedes-Benz (possibly the GLB-Class). The partners named these models only as “next generation compact vehicles” in their June 2014 media release. COMPAS will not reach its full capacity until 2021.

The larger QX50 has been built in Japan for more than nine years. This D segment crossover started life as the EX but had its name changed in mid-2013. A made-in-China extended wheelbase version had its world premiere at November 2014’s Guangzhou motor show. This car also had a minor facelift and went on sale from the first quarter of 2015.

North America’s 2016 model year QX50 gained the long-wheelbase body as standard. Its regional debut was at the New York auto show in April 2015. In the US and Canada it has a standard 3.7-litre V6 and seven-speed automatic gearbox. The QX50 had never sold well in North America due, some say, to the lack of rear seat room. There were only minor changes for the 2017 model year.

The next QX50 is likely to be made in Japan on the same line at Tochigi which builds the current model, while the long-wheelbase QX50L should again be built by the Dongfeng Nissan joint venture.

An initial preview, in the form of the QX Sport Inspiration concept, revealed some of the model’s look when it had its public debut in April 2016. This was at the Beijing motor show. The concept was revised and exhibited at the 2016 Paris motor show. The main differences were new wheels and grey paint.

A second preview, the QX50 concept (see image above), premiered at the Detroit auto show in January. US market dealers have been told they will have the 2018 QX50 to sell from the fourth quarter.

The QX60 is another SUV which has been in production for some time. Unlike the smaller QX50 and larger QX70 which are RWD/AWD, its platform is a front- and all-wheel drive design. This vehicle is mostly for North America, the Middle East, Russia and China. The QX60 is not available in Europe.

Originally known as the JX, the seven-seat, D/E segment SUV had its global debut in concept form at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California in August 2011.

The production version of the JX followed at the Los Angeles auto show in November 2011. Sales of the JX35 in North American markets commenced in April 2012 for that region’s 2013 model year. The standard engine was, until the 2017 model year, a 265hp 3.5-litre V6 for both front- and all-wheel drive variants.

To make room for the JX at Nissan North America’s Smyrna plant in Tennessee, production of the Frontier and Xterra shifted to NNA’s Canton, Mississippi factory.

The JX was the first Infiniti model to be made outside Japan and the first Infiniti to use a front-wheel drive platform since the i35 which was built between 1999 and 2004. JX production at Smyrna started in February 2012.

The Nissan Pathfinder, announced by Nissan North America in July 2012, is closely related to the QX60 and is built at the same US plant.

The main news for North America’s 2014 model year was the name change from JX35 to QX60. Vehicles became available there from July 2013. The 2015MY QX60 was almost unchanged – only the CVT was modified. The 2016 model year QX60 had a mid-life facelift. This car had its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January 2016. For the 2017 model year, the 3.5-litre V6 gained 30hp and now produces 295hp. There should be another facelift for the 2018 model year ahead of a replacement model in CY2020. The next QX60 will likely be based on a CMF architecture.

The second generation of Infiniti’s RWD/AWD E segment crossover, a rival for the Lexus RX, premiered at the Geneva motor show in March 2008. It was launched as the FX but changed names during 2013 and became the QX70.

In North America, the range originally consisted of the FX35 and FX50. In Europe, the six-cylinder gasoline variant (originally the FX37) always had a 3.7-litre V6. This latter vehicle had its world premiere at the Paris motor show in October 2008. The FX50 was powered by a 5.0-litre V8 in all regions. North America’s 2013 model year six-cylinder FX finally gained the 3.7-litre V6 so the FX35 was discontinued, replaced by the FX37.

In certain markets outside North America, the FX was available with Renault and Nissan’s V9X 2,993cc V6 diesel. The FX30d had its global debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2010 and went on sale across Europe four months later. The model name for the QX70 diesel is QX70 3.0d. It went on sale in relevant European markets from October 2013.

A facelift for the FX (2012MY in North America) had its global debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California in August 2011. There were no mechanical changes. The updated FX35 and FX50 went on sale in the US and Canada in October 2011.

The main update for North America’s 2014 model year was the name change to QX70. This was as at June 2013. The 2015MY QX70 range had only small changes: a Sport package was new, while the 5.0 AWD variant was dropped. The 2016MY QX70, announced in August 2015, was carried over. There was a new grille and a few other changes for the 2017 model year.

The second generation QX70 is due to enter production during the fourth quarter of 2017. It should be manufactured in Japan by Nissan Shatai at that company’s Shonan factory. The new QX70 is likely to be one of the models to be fitted with VC-Turbo, the variable compression engine which Infiniti premiered at the 2016 Paris motor show. This turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol unit is due to enter production in 2018.

Despite its age, the seven year old QX80 is selling in good numbers, mainly in the USA. Over the first two months of 2017, Nissan North America’s dealers moved 3,372 units of this giant SUV, a year-on-year gain of 27 per cent.

The third generation of this up to eight-seater vehicle is sold mostly in North America, Russia, South Korea, Australia and certain Gulf States. It changed names to QX80 from the original QX56 during the second half of 2013. The Lexus LX, also having up to eight seats, is the main rival, though the Cadillac Escalade is another competitor, as is the Lincoln Navigator.

The QX56, which was new for North America’s 2011 model year, replaced a model of the same name that had been made in the USA. Its global debut was at the 2010 New York motor show and sales followed from July of that year. There is only one trim level but rear- and all-wheel drive variants are available.

The main change for North America’s 2014 model year was the name change to QX80. A facelifted model premiered at the New York auto show in April 2014. North America’s 2015 QX80 had this update. The 2016MY QX80 was carried over. The ‘Endurance’ 5.6-litre V8 which debuted in North America’s 2016 Nissan Titan had been expected to be fitted to the 2017 model year QX80. This did not eventuate. Instead the 2017 QX80 had only minor changes. There will be a second facelift for the 2018 model year. Infiniti will reveal the restyled model on 11 April, just ahead of the New York auto show’s press preview days.

The QX80 is closely related to and built by Nissan Shatai at its Kyushu plant alongside the seventh generation Nissan Safari (Japan) / Patrol (export markets name). These vehicles’ 5.6-litre V8 gasoline engines are supplied by Nissan North America.

The fourth generation of Infiniti’s largest SUV is due for release in 2020. The next QX80 should again use a body-on-frame design.

Electrified models

Infiniti had at one time been planning on releasing a fully electric compact sedan but those plans were shelved as Nissan rightly saw that there would be little demand for such a model. The next generation Leaf is due for release in the fourth quarter of 2017 and some say an Infiniti which would share modules with this car is being developed. This seems unlikely given how few would be sold in Infiniti’s main markets of the USA and China, at least while gasoline prices remain at current levels.

Nissan is in something of a bind when it comes to EVs for Infiniti. On the one hand, the brand must be seen to be offering so-called zero emissions models yet the business case for such vehicles is a long way short of solid, as the lack of profits for Tesla Motors ably demonstrates. Infiniti’s parent firm will likely wait a while and see whether or not the electric crossovers which Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo are developing find success before launching its own D or E segment EV equivalent. What would make the most sense would be to leverage Daimler’s EVA, a bespoke architecture for electric models.

In the interim period before Infiniti commits to fully electric vehicles, there should be more models in the style of the Q50 Hybrid. Initial details of this rival for the now discontinued BMW ActiveHybrid 3 were announced by Nissan North America in January 2013. Both rear- and all-wheel drive variants are available. Unlike the Q50, which in North American spec has a standard 3.7-litre V6, the Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 in combination with an electric motor. The total power output is said to be 360hp.

As noted above, Nissan launched the Infiniti brand in Japan at the Tokyo motor show in November 2013. The first model was the Q50 Hybrid, which went on sale locally from February 2014 as the Infiniti Skyline. It is sold via selected Nissan dealerships: there is no separate sales channel for Infiniti. A petrol turbo variant was added in June 2014: the Skyline 200GT-t.

North America’s 2015 model year Q50 Hybrid was carried over. This also applied to the 2016 model year Hybrid. There were some minor changes for the 2017 model year. The replacement model due for release in 2020 might well be a PHEV instead of an HEV.

Infiniti also builds a petrol-electric SUV, the QX60 Hybrid, though production volume is small. This model had its global debut at the New York auto show in March 2013. It is powered by the combination of a supercharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and a 15kW electric motor. The standard transmission is a CVT.

The US market’s Hybrid was priced at introduction about $3,000 above the QX60. US market deliveries of the 2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid commenced in September 2013. For the 2015 model year, there were some new colours and a modified CVT. The QX60 Hybrid was then dropped from Nissan’s US range at the end of the 2015 model year and from Nissan Canada’s range at the end of the 2016 model year. It continues to be available in China and Mexico though combined annual sales are very small. The QX60 Hybrid will not be directly replaced and may in fact cease being built later this year.

Infiniti’s other two petrol-electric models are the Q70 Hybrid and Q70L Hybrid. These sedans started life as the M35 Hybrid and M35 L Hybrid. The names were changed during the second half of 2013.

Nissan North America (NNA) was the first regional division to announce initial details of the standard wheelbase model, the then M35 Hybrid. This was in October 2009 with the car’s world premiere taking place at the Geneva motor show in March 2010. It went on sale in Europe in early 2011, while Nissan North America launched the ‘2012 M35 Hybrid’ in the US and Canada in April 2011. The car’s twin, the Nissan Fuga Hybrid, went on sale in Japan in late 2010.

As well as a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline engine, the Q70 Hybrid has a single electric motor/twin clutch arrangement. Innovatively, the first clutch is installed between the naturally aspirated V6 and the electric motor, the advantage being all components acting on a single prop shaft to the rear differential. The electric motor acts as both propulsion unit, boosting the V6 in ‘power assist’ mode when maximum acceleration is required, and also as a generator. Along with charging the battery in the normal way, the motor recovers energy otherwise lost during deceleration and braking. The car can also run solely on its electric motor in certain driving conditions, such as when starting off, should the driver apply only light pressure to the throttle.

Nissan launched a long wheelbase version of the former M35 Hybrid at the Beijing motor show in April 2012. This, the Q70L Hybrid, is mostly for the Chinese market – it became available there in June 2012. A version is sold in Japan badged as the Nissan Cima and another as the Mitsubishi Dignity. All are manufactured at Tochigi in Japan.

The Q70 & L Hybrids are based on Nissan’s aged FM RWD/AWD platform but the next generation cars may either share an architecture with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or instead be based on the Nissan FR-L platform. The latter scenario seems more likely given that Tochigi is already the manufacturing base for the Q50 Hybrid. The replacements are due out in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Even though a sedan which is larger than the Q70 is not yet confirmed for production, should the Q80 be released, it seems almost certain that a Q80 PHEV variant would be part of the line-up. It might even borrow its petrol-electric powertrain from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of

Future product program intelligence

More data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans is available in PLDB from QUBE.

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