Tips, Tricks & Trends

New Plan: Infiniti To Nissan Like Mercury To Ford

While Nissan’s plan to sell luxury cars on 17-year-old platforms hasn’t worked, now it has a new plan. Infiniti will become a “Nissan-plus” brand like Mercury was to Ford. Or like Plymouth was to Chrysler. Or Like Clipper To Packard. We could go on but you get the comparison. Infiniti could have been a lot more.

Nissan had to do three things to keep Infiniti going strong: build compelling cars, keep platforms and tech fresh, and stop with the confusing number/letter names. If it needed a playbook the Genesis brand would be a great one to mimic. Actually, Genesis is what Infiniti could and should have been.

We thought Infiniti would represent much more when it debuted in 1989

The logo for Nissan’s luxury car division Infiniti (top) is seen as employees work at the main assembly line of V6 engines at Iwaki Plant. | Getty

Originally debuting in 2017 after being a high-end badge since 2008 Genesis just seems to do nothing wrong. It has been building on its successes and hitting home runs in styling, performance, technology, and quality. Those were all of the things we thought Infiniti would represent when it debuted in 1989.

That was the same year that Lexus was launched. The contrast between the two is sometimes awkward to watch. With Genesis on the field, it is now becoming painful. Combined with Nissan’s woes there is not enough capital and manpower left to give Infiniti a solid reboot.

“We will bring back Infiniti as Nissan-plus, in terms of product and technology,” Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s COO, told Automotive News. What that will probably mean is tarted-up Altima and Maxima crossovers probably by 2024. Then he added, “Infiniti will be great again.” What he probably means is that there is nowhere to go but up when you maintain the lowest market share since 2002. Oh, and 2020 first-quarter sales were down more than 25%.

RELATED: Why Do People Say the Infiniti Brand Has Gone Downhill These Days?

We expect the Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe will be killed off next

2018 Infiniti Q60
2018 Infiniti Q60 | Infiniti

The uninspired Infiniti Q70 flagship sedan was killed last year. We expect the same fate will befall the Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe. Infiniti isn’t the only brand finding that cars don’t sell. But replacements for these cut models won’t be coming until 2023 at the earliest according to Gupta.

Parent company Nissan is in big trouble and Infiniti is not helping things. Last week Nissan laid out plans for job and model cuts, executive reshuffling, and shadowy sneak peeks at future products. Now we see clearer plans for Infiniti. 

You already knew retrenchment was in the works. The Infiniti brand stopped selling altogether in Western Europe last year. Even with a relatively unique engine/electric motor drive system out in 2017, it failed to tip the scales. What Infiniti has left will have to keep it above water but it seems almost impossible given the circumstances.

Without a standout, Infiniti’s new plan could make it another brand piled onto the dustheap of automotive failures

For 2019, all Q70 3.7 LUXE content from the previously complimentary Essential package is now standard. | Infiniti

When you think about Infiniti it is hard to think of a single picture of what its lineup looks like. Without a standout, in any one segment or compelling technology, Infiniti is doomed to become just another brand piled onto the dustheap of past automotive failures. 

Now it has to get innovative if it wants to survive. We will watch Infiniti to see if it can make its Nissan-plus entries not only stand out from the Nissans they are derived from but standouts in the segments they’re competing in. 

That will be the only way it can survive in the cluttered era of brands, models, and rapidly changing technology.