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Friday
Dec212012

Infiniti Strains Its Alphabet Soup

By Christopher A. Sawyer

You almost have to wonder what Barbara Broccoli and the folks from the James Bond franchise think of Infiniti’s new naming strategy. Starting with the Q50, to be introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, every Infiniti will carry either the Q (car) or QX (crossover and SUV) prefix. These letters will be followed by two-digit designators representing their hierarchy in the lineup.

As you can see from the graphic provided by Infiniti (click to enlarge), the G Sedan now becomes the Q50, the G Coupe and Convertible become the Q60, and the M Sedan the Q70. This leaves room for a Q80 flagship sedan as it is unlikely Infiniti will use that number for either a large coupe or convertible. The oft-rumored Infiniti supercar—either a Nissan GTR variant or an electrified mid-engined sports car—would take the Q90 designation; enhancing its position as the halo for the rest of the line. However, with the end of the line for the Lexus LF-A, a still struggling global economy and fleet-wide CO2 targets in the Euro Zone, such a vehicle is unlikely for the foreseeable future.

By adding the letter “X” and another number to this naming convention (if numbers can be referred to as names), Infiniti sidestepped any troubles with Audi, the former employer of Johan de Nysschen, President of Infiniti Motor Company Limited. Though its automobiles begin with the “A” prefix, Audi’s crossovers and SUVs begin with the letter “Q” and a single digit. However, Infiniti’s move suggests that with only 26 letters in the alphabet (21 if you eliminate the vowels a,e,i,o and u and use only the consonants), the number of letters that have the right psychographic attributes are slim, indeed. Plus, the letter “I” is already in use in Europe, in lower case form, on various Hyundai models.

Infiniti also announced that Nissan’s Sunderland, U.K. plant would be the home for a new Infiniti model, and the only production sight for the new global vehicle. It will be built alongside the Nissan Leaf, Note and Juke. A production version of the Etherea concept car (a much more beguiling descriptor than “Q or QX Whatever”), this new model reportedly is based on Mercedes’ A-Class/B-Class platform. (Mercedes and Infiniti have an on-going technical partnership.) This means the new British designed and developed compact luxury car will be front-drive with the option of all-wheel drive, and powered by engines ranging from 1.6- to 2.0-liters. A plug-in hybrid also is under study. With production scheduled to start in 2015, the Etherea-based car would be badged a 2016 mode. Annual production capacity for the vehicle at the Sunderland plant is estimated at 60,000 units.

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