Renault/Nissan-Daimler Alliance Shaping Next Infiniti
August 28, 2011
By Peter LyonIllustrator: Holiday Auto Magazine
All is not what it seems at Infiniti. The all-new Infiniti G (the Nissan Skyline in Japan) was supposed to be unveiled at the 2011 New York Auto Show last April. But certain developments meant that not only was the G's debut postponed, but Infiniti's presence was scrubbed from the show altogether.
This is where the story gets interesting. By April 2010, the new G was all but completed and ready for the showroom. The current model caters to the company's strict five-year model cycle, meaning that a new model was due on the New York stand this year with an expected on-sale date of September 2011.
All that changed after the announcement of the new alliance between Daimler (parent company of Mercedes-Benz) and Renault/Nissan in April 2010, a relationship in which the parties said Daimler would supply Infiniti with four- and six-cylinder engines. Japan's third-biggest-selling car magazine, Holiday Auto, also discovered that Daimler and Nissan plan to share platforms and co-develop electric vehicle (EV) and fuel cell (FCHV) technologies. Indeed, we can look to the Infiniti Etherea concept car revealed at the Geneva auto show early this year for hints as to what to expect from the future G.
At the time the Etherea was unveiled, one source suggested that Nissan's greatest expectation out of the relationship was the platform from the next-generation S-Class. But this source was later proven wrong. At the 2010 Paris auto show, Nissan EVP Colin Dodge revealed that "Nissan is currently evaluating the next-generation Mercedes platform for Infiniti," with the Japanese company initiating discussions in Germany on October 2. Little did we know at the time that this obscure comment would end up referring to the new G (Skyline) platform. To think that Nissan would change course midstream and opt for a Mercedes chassis was unthinkable back then. And such a revision at that late stage meant the exterior styling had to be re-penned, allowing stylists to experiment with the bold edges and surfaces seen on the Etherea and Essence concepts.
When company CEO Carlos Ghosn revealed Nissan's ambitious Power 88 plan, which aims to lift both global market share and operating profit to 8 percent by fiscal year 2016, he said his team would expand Infiniti's lineup to more than 10 models by 2016 with a goal of capturing a 10-percent share of the luxury segment. To achieve this, some radical thinking was needed, requiring Daimler and Renault/Nissan to bring their best technologies to the table to create a winning package in the shortest time possible. So the new Infiniti gets a Mercedes platform. It's that simple.
As for powerplants, the story has taken a different turn. We reported earlier this year that a new Infiniti was destined to employ a Mercedes engine, and that it most likely would come from the high-performance AMG stable.
Deciding to maintain a Japanese flavor under the hood, Nissan will reportedly once again incorporate the highly successful VQ V-6 engine, but downgrade it from 3.7 to 3.5 liters and tack on a low-pressure turbocharger that delivers enough power (around 300 hp) with class-topping fuel economy. The recently launched Infiniti M35h hybrid and technologically advanced 2.5-liter V-6 with VVELis also are being considered for this car, while a Mercedes-made V-6 diesel is already in the pipeline.
Slated for the 2014 New York show reveal, we can't wait to see just what flavor the new Infiniti takes on, and more to the point, to see how Mercedes and Infiniti customers interpret this car.