Nissan: Building Infiniti into top tier premium brand
Joint development and production with Daimler of new compact cars in Mexico
|The Q80 Inspiration Concept exhibited at the Paris Motor Show in October 2014 (photo by Nissan)|
Nissan is revamping the Infiniti brand in terms of both quality and quantity. Nissan plans to increase, by the end of the decade, the segment coverage of the Infiniti models from current 50% level to 80% and increase the number of the Infiniti models by 60%. In addition, the company plans to double the number of powertrain variants. Nissan plans to nearly triple the global sales of the Infiniti models from those in the fiscal year ended in March 2013 (FY 2012) to 500,000 units in FY 2016.
Nissan plans to ramp up the Infiniti brand as a premium brand leveraging on its alliance with Mercedes-Benz. Starting in 2015, Nissan will produce compact vehicles in the U.K. based on Mercedes-Benz's Modular Front Architecture (MFA) platform. This will be followed by a joint development with Mercedes-Benz of the next-generation MFA platform and compact vehicles based on the new platform. Production of the new compact vehicles will start in 2017 at a new plant being built jointly by the two groups.
Nissan exhibited the Q80 Inspiration Concept at the Paris Motor Show in October 2014. The company announced plans to launch the Q80, the top model under the Infiniti brand, to mark its first foray into the premium sedan market in 2018 if all goes as planned. It has been reported that the Q80 might be developed based on Mercedes-Benz' rear-wheel drive platform. In November 2014, Nissan started production of the Infiniti models in China.
Medium- and long-term goals for Infiniti brand
|Segment coverage||Will be increased from 50% to 80% by the end of the decade|
|Model variants||Will be increased from 8 to 13 models by the end of the decade|
|Powertrain variants||Will be doubled by the end of the decade as the model portfolio is expanded|
|Global unit sales||Will be tripled from sales in FY 2013 to 500,000 units by FY 2017|
Source: Infiniti press release Sep. 18, 2014, Automotive News Aug. 25, 2014, Nikkan Kogyo Newspaper Mar. 4, 2014, Nikkan Jidosha Newspaper Mar. 5, 2014.
Three stages of growth through 2020
|2014-2015||Preliminary stage to growth path|
|2016-2017||Entering growth stage with China production contributing to sales increase and the launching of compact premium vehicles (e.g. Q30 and QX30 produced in U.K. and three models produced in Mexico)|
|2018-2020||Launching Q80 and other highest-end Infiniti models to ramp up the Infiniti as the top-tier premium brand with the alliance with Daimler contributing to a significant degree|
Source: An interview with Michael Bartsch, vice president of Infiniti Americas, on Automotive News May 5, 2014
(Note) Infiniti's aggressive long-range rebuilding program was prepared chiefly by Johan de Nysschen who left Audi of America two years ago to join Infiniti. He left Infiniti in July 2014 to join Cadillac GM. But the program itself has been approved by Nissan and will most likely be carried out as planned.
Related report: "Toyota in U.S. and Europe: Reinforcing Lexus and high-performance lines" (Oct. 2014)
New model launches starting in 2016
Nissan is planning a series of model launches for the Infiniti brand starting in 2016.
Infiniti brand model plans for U.S.
|Second half of 2014||2015||2016||2017||2018|
|Q40/Q60, Q70 facelift, Q70L launch, QX80 facelift||QX60 facelift||Q30/QX30 launch, Q50 Eau Rogue launch||Launch of new models produced in Mexico, LE launch, All-new QX70||Q80 launch|
New models slated for launch in U.S.
|Q40/Q60||The G37 Sedan, the predecessor of the Q50 (known as the Skyline in Japan), will be renamed Q40 starting with the 2015 model and sold along with the Q50. Likewise, sales of the G37 Coupe and Convertible will continue under the new name of Q60 Coupe and Convertible.|
|Q70/QX80 facelift||The Q70 (known as the Fuga in Japan) 2015MY launched in September 2014 received a restyling with the adoption of LED headlamps. The QX80's 2015 model was freshened with restyled front face ,grille and LED headlamps.|
|Q70L||The Q70L is a long-wheelbase version made available with 5.9-inch (15cm) longer overall length and 5.6-inch wider rear-seat space. The price difference of the Q70L, including the premium package featuring leather seats, from the standard model is kept to USD 1500 (3.7-liter engine model) and USD 1700 (5.6-liter model). The Q70L was developed to meet market need in China.|
|Q30, QX30||The Q30 compact hatchback produced in the Sunderland plant in the U.K. will be launched at the beginning of 2016. The QX30 Crossover, a sibling of the Q30, will also be launched in the latter half of 2016. They were developed based on Mercedes-Benz' front-wheel drive platform known as Modular Front Architecture (MFA). They are fitted with Mercedes-Benz' 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline or diesel engine. The Q30 and QX30 produced in the U.K. will be sold primarily in the European market although certain quantities will be exported to the U.S.|
|3 versions of compact vehicles produced in Mexico||Nissan and Daimler will jointly develop compact premium vehicles with joint development of the next-generation MFA platform and other technologies. They plan to produce three different versions each under the Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz brands (most likely the sedan, coupe and crossover). The new models will be produced at the new plant in Mexico being built jointly by the two companies.|
|Details of the new models have not been disclosed as of today. It is said that they will be the U.S. versions of the Q30 and QX30 to be produced at the UK plant.|
|Q50 Eau Rogue||Nissan is planning an 'image car" based on the Q50 and made up of CFRP parts that will have a price tag of over USD 100,000. The vehicle will be fitted with the manually crafted V6 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged engine that is used on Nissan GT-R (the maximum power will be increased from 545hp of the GT-R's engine to 560hp).|
|With the launch of the Q50 Eau Rogue, Nissan plans to enhance the image of the Infiniti brand as a 'performance car' in direct competition with German-made luxury vehicles. Since the GT-R's engine is hand-crafted, it has been reported that the Q50 Eau Rogue will be sold for a limited quantity of 500 units.|
|LE (EV)||An electric vehicle carrying the Infiniti brand. Its launch was originally planned for 2014 but postponed to 2017-18. It will be based on Nissan Leaf's platform but will likely come with unique styling, luxurious interior and next-generation lithium-ion battery with an extended cruising range.|
Source: Automotive News Mar. 10, Jul. 14, Jul. 28 and Nov. 11, 2014
Q80 Concept exhibited at Paris Motor Show as an top tier premium car
Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept was exhibited at the Paris Motor Show in October 2014, and also at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
|Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept exhibited at Paris Motor Show in October 2014|
Infiniti Q80 Inspiration Concept
|Entering premium sedan market||The Q80 Inspiration Concept, exhibited at Paris Motor Show 2014, is a four-door coupe (named the Fastback by Nissan) with 199.2-inch (5060mm) overall length. It expresses Infiniti's bold determination to enter the top-level large-size premium sedan market. It also shows the company's intention to enhance the overall image of the brand. It has four independent seats along with a HUD for the front seat occupant. It is a concept vehicle that hints at a volume production model of the future.|
|Powertrain||The hybrid system (with maximum system output of 550hp) has a 100hp maximum motor that assists the V6 3.0-liter direct-injection twin-turbocharged engine with the maximum output of 450hp. The Q80 Inspiration Concept is fitted with a 9-speed automatic transmission and can switch to all-wheel drive (AWD) on demand. The car has fuel economy of 5.5-liter/100km in normal driving along with CO2 emission of 129g/km. The new engine will be fitted on Infiniti models within 2 years (earlier than the Q80).|
|Autonomous driving technologies||Infiniti believes that using autonomous driving technology in assisting the driver is essential for premium cars of the future. The Q80 Concept is equipped with several cameras, laser and sensors. This will help the driver judge which autonomous driving technology he/she should use by checking driving and other information displayed on the HUD. The concept car is not intended as a "self-driving vehicle" that drives entirely on its own.|
Source: Infiniti press release Oct. 1 2014, Automotive News Jul. 28, 2014, Sep. 22, 2014.
Producing engines in U.S., assembling vehicles in U.K. and Mexico with Daimler
In April 2010, Renault-Nissan Alliance formed partnership with Daimler and started three pillar projects mainly for Europe. In October 2014, it was announced that the two groups' collaboration expanded to 12 projects involving three continents. Nissan's intention is to enhance the product appeal and expand the portfolio of the Infiniti vehicles by joining hands with Daimler that has years of expertise with high-end vehicles.
1)In June 2014, Nissan and Daimler jointly started producing Daimler's four-cylinder engines in the U.S. for use on Infiniti vehicles (including the Skyline sold in Japan) and on Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
2) Nissan will develop the Infiniti Q30 and QX30 based on Mercedes-Benz' MFA platform and produce them in its U.K. plant starting in 2015.
3) Nissan and Daimler will jointly build a new assembly plant in Mexico. They will jointly develop compact premium vehicles including the next-generation MFA platform. Start of production is planned for 2017 with Infiniti vehicles and for 2018 with Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The compact premium vehicles from this joint development will be also produced in Nissan's and Daimler's plants across the world including Europe and China.
4) Nissan plans to develop the Q80, the most luxurious model among the Infiniti vehicles, for launch slated for 2018. It has been reported that the Q80 might be built on Mercedes-Benz's rear-wheel drive platform.
Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn has said "Joint development of compact premium vehicles and joint production in Mexico represent the largest projects between Nissan and Daimler." Nissan will absorb know-how on high-end vehicles from Daimler. In turn, Daimler will benefit from the scale economy on vehicles that are produced from the same platform including Infiniti vehicles, and reinforce overall profitability. Referring to potential rivalries, a remark was made that "the vehicles within the scope of the joint project will clearly differ between Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz in terms of product design, specifications, and customer segment."
Joint production of Mercedes-Benz' four-cylinder engines with Daimler
Joint production of Mercedes-Benz' four-cylinder engines at Decherd plant in U.S.
|Joint production of Mercedes- Benz engines||In June 2014, Nissan and Daimler started production of Mercedes-Benz' four-cylinder gasoline engines at the new powertrain plant that was built in the premises of Nissan's Decherd plant in the U.S. The engines will be used on the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class models. The new plant has an annual capacity of 250,000 engines when it reaches full operation.|
|For Daimler, the new plant is its first engine plant in the NAFTA (U.S., Canada and Mexico) areas. The engines will be used in the C-Class vehicles being produced at the Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama starting in 2014.|
Source: Nissan press release Oct. 3, 2014, Infiniti USA press release May 9, 2012.
Mercedes-Benz' turbocharged engine to be fitted in the Skyline for Japanese market
|Daimler's turbo-charged engine||In June 2014, Nissan released the Skyline 200GT-t, a new addition fitted with available Daimler 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, to its Skyline family sold in Japan (sold as the Infiniti Q50 family in the U.S. and other markets). Downsized from the previous-generation 250GT powered by a V6 2500cc engine, the 2000cc engine in the 200GT-t yields the class-top dynamic performance with the maximum output of 155kW (211PS). It outperforms the naturally aspirated 2500cc engine in terms of power and acceleration. The engine is mated with a 7-speed automatic transmission.|
|Fuel economy of 13.6km/liter||With the adoption of the start-stop system, direct-injection, variable valve timing, electrohydraulic power steering (vehicle speed sensitive) and charging control, the new Skyline 200GT-t achieves fuel economy of 13.6km/liter on JC08 mode (20% improvement over the 250GT).|
|Supplied from a U.S. plant||The Daimler 2000cc turbocharged engines used on the Skyline were initially imported from Daimler's plant in Europe. They are supplied from the new powertrain plant in the U.S., when the plant starts operations.|
|Price||The new turbocharged model has a starting price of JPY 3,834,000. It is lower by JPY 790,000 than that of the hybrid model fitted with a V6 3.5-liter gasoline engine and motor assist sold for JPY 4,624,500 and up (consumption tax inclusive). The monthly sales goal is set for 200 units.|
Source: Nissan press release May 26, 2014, Nihon Keizai Newspaper May 27, 2014, Nikkan Jidosha News Paper Jun. 2, 2014.
Engines on Q50 and Skyine in major markets
|Japan (Skyline)||Europe (UK)||China||USA|
|Hybrid car||V6 3500cc||V6 3500cc||V6 3500cc||V6 3500cc|
|Gasoline-powered car||Turbo 2000cc||Turbo 2000cc||Turbo 2000cc|
|Naturally aspirated 3700cc||Naturally aspirated 3700cc|
Source: Infiniti Websites as of end of November 2014 (Note) The Q50L (long-wheelbase version of the Q50) production of which started in China in November 2014 is fitted exclusively with the 2000cc turbocharged engine.
Producing Infiniti compact vehicles in U.K. and Mexico
|Nissan's plant site in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where a new joint plant is being constructed by Nissan and Daimler|
Building a joint assembly plant in Mexico for compact cars
|In June 2014, Nissan and Daimler agreed to establish a 50-50 joint venture that will oversee construction and operations of the new plant being built in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The two companies plan to start construction of the new plant in early 2015. Start of production is planned for 2017 with Infiniti vehicles and for 2018 with Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The two companies will share the total investment cost for the new plant of approximately EUR 1 billion.|
|The new plant will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles for both brands combined, or 150,000 vehicles per brand. The plant will hire 5,700 new workers for full-capacity operation. The two companies will expand local supply base in Mexico to achieve a high localization rate. (Please see "New models slated for launch in U.S." above about the new models.)|
Source: Nissan press release Jun. 27, 2014., Oct. 3, 2014, Nihon Keizai Newspaper Jun. 22, 2014, Automotive News Nov. 11, 2014.
Producing Infiniti Q30 and QX30 in U.K. starting in 2015
|Nissan is making an additional investment of GBP 250 million in the Sunderland plant in U.K. to build 60,000 units of compact Infiniti vehicles a year. Production of the Q30 will start in mid-2015, to be followed by the QX30 crossover. They will be supplied to the U.S., China and other markets worldwide. (Please see "New models slated for launch in U.S." above the Q30 and QX30.)|
Source: Nissan press release Dec. 19, 2012, Automotive News Jul. 14, 2014, Nov. 11, 2014.
Starting China production in November 2014
Local production of the Infiniti vehicles in China started in November 2014. A Q50L was the first China-made Infiniti to roll off the assembly line. Nissan aims to sell 100,000 Infiniti vehicles a year in China by 2018 with at least one half being produced locally. The Infiniti brand sold 20,000 vehicles in the first nine months of 2014, an increase of 91% year-on-year. According to Nissan, Infiniti is the fastest growing premium vehicle brand in China. There were over 60 dealerships in early 2014. Nissan plans to increase the number to 80 within the year and to 120 within three years.
Producing Infiniti vehicles in China
|Dongfeng Infiniti Motor Co., Ltd. established||Nissan and Dongfeng Motor Corp. established a joint venture, Dongfeng Infiniti Motor Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Dongfeng Motor Co., Ltd. (DFL) which is a 50-50 joint venture founded by Nissan and Dongfeng Motor Corp. (announced in September 2014). Dongfeng Infiniti Motor will follow localization strategy with respect to four areas including the brand, products, production and management. The company aims to increase vehicle sales in China by 3.5 to 4 times, from the results in 2014, to 100,000 vehicles by 2018. The company plans to produce more than a half of that quantity locally in China.|
|Start of local production of Infiniti Q50L||In November 2014, Infiniti started local production of the Infiniti Q50L, the long-wheelbase version of the Q50, at the Xiangyang plant in China. The plant has annual capacity of 250,000 vehicles, 60,000 of which are dedicated for Infiniti production. Production of the QX50 long-wheelbase model will start in early 2015. The Xiangyang plant has been producing the Nissan Teana, Murano, etc.|
|The Infiniti Q50L has an overall length of 4852mm, which is 62mm longer than the standard 4790mm-long version. Its wheelbase is 2898mm, which is 48mm longer than the standard 2850mm-long version. The extra dimensions add to the premium ride experience for the rear-seat occupants. The QX50L is equipped with a 2000cc turbocharged engine. It is equipped with Direct Adaptive Steering and other cutting-edge technologies that are found on the Q50 which is a standard import model.|
Source: Nissan press release Sep. 22, 2014, Nov. 6, 2014, Nihon Keizai Newspaper Mar. 25, 2014.
Infiniti design studios in U.K., U.S. and China
In September 2014, a new design studio opened in London, entirely dedicated for the Infiniti vehicles and totally independent from the Nissan brand. The design studios in Japan have already been separated between the brands. A dedicated Infiniti design studio is also planned for the U.S. and China in the near future. It is said that design is a key driver as Nissan continues to sharpen the Infiniti brand.
|Inside the Infiniti design studio in London opened in Sep. 2014|
Infiniti design studio opened in London
|In September 2014, Nissan opened Infiniti design studio in central London. The design studio is capable of making full-size clay models. This marks the first of of a network of global design studios. Similar studios dedicated for the Infiniti brand will open in Beijing (China) and San Diego (U.S.) by the end of 2014. (Nissan global design center located in Atsugi near Tokyo has separate sections each dedicated for the Nissan and the Infiniti brand, respectively.)|
|According to Nissan, not many leading automakers have studios, capable of making clay models, in the center of large cities such as London. The Infiniti design studio employs designers from many nationalities including Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Russia and Korea. The design studio in London has already designed highly popular vehicles such as the Qashqai and the Juke. The Q30 slated for production to start in 2016, and the Q80 Inspiration Concept that was exhibited at the Paris Motor Show 2014 were also designed by the design studio in London.|
Source: Infiniti press release Sep. 18, 2014, Automotive News Jan. 20, 2014, Nikkan Kogyo Newspaper Mar. 4, 2014., Nikkan jidosha Mar. 4 and 5, 2014.
(Reference) Infiniti brand unit sales
Infiniti brand sales in U.S. by model
|2009||2010||2011||2012||2013||Jan.-Oct. 2013||Jan.-Oct. 2014|
|Total Infiniti in U.S.||81,089||103,411||98,461||119,877||116,455||90,071||93,925|
Infiniti brand sales by country other than U.S.
|2009||2010||2011||2012||2013||Jan.-Oct. 2013||Jan.-Oct. 2014|
|United Arab Emirates||0||1,793||3,219||2,991||2,902||2,051||2,498|
|Total other than U.S.||16,956||20,057||24,764||26,391||26,427||21,395||26,495|
|Total including U.S.||98,045||123,468||123,225||146,268||142,882||111,466||120,420|
Source: MarkLines Data Center (data of 34 countries including the U.S.)
Production Forecast by LMC Automotive: Nissan's production will be 5.82 million units in 2017
|(LMC Automotive、October 2014)|
According to LMC Automotive's forecast in October 2014, Nissan's light vehicle production in 2017 will be 5.82 million units, up by 17.8% from 2013. The production volume in Japan was relatively high in 2012 at 1.3 million units but will gradually decline to 950,000 units in 2017. Production in China will increase every year to 1.3 million units in 2017, which will be Nissan's largest production volume by country, far exceeding that in Japan.
Production in USA in 2014 will be 925,000 units, up by 16.8% from 2013 but will hover at under 900,000 through 2017. Production in Mexico in 2015 will be 841,000 units but will also hover at around 780,000 units.
LMC Automotive comments; "Nissan's utilization rate in North America has been above the industry average in 2013 and 2014, but will begin drift downwards as the new plants in Aguascalientes (Aguascalientes 2 and the new plant to be constructed in a joint relationship with Daimler) come online. LMC Automotive forecasts that the new joint plant will be referred to as Aguascalientes 3 and will begin production in 2017. Once all the Aguascalientes plants are online, LMC Automotive expects the group to be in good shape, with plant utilization hovering in the 80% range." The UK plant will maintain its current production volume level, around 500,000 units, through 2017.
Nissan Group Light Vehicle Production Forecast
|South Africa sub-total||23,968||30,174||23,022||20,259||24,746||25,284||25,611|
|Source: LMC Automotive "Global Automotive Production Forecast (October, 2014)"|
|(Note) 1.||Data indicate figures of only small-size vehicles, including passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with gross vehicle weight of under 6 tons.|
|2.||All rights reserved. Reproduction of any data will require permission of LMC Automotive.|
|3.||For more information or inquiries of forecast data, please contact LMC Automotive.|
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