Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 9, 2019

Infiniti, the Luxury Brand, Celebrates Its 30th Birthday

Screen Shot 2019-11-08 at 1.41.21 PM

The first Infiniti, the Q45, went on sale 30 years ago today

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona

Infiniti, the luxury brand of the Japanese automaker Nissan, celebrated its 30th birthday here, with look back at its past, a summation of its present state, and a glimpse into its future.

“It was November 8, 1989 that Infiniti was born,” said Mike Colleran, its global leader. “Today is the day the brand opened its showroom doors and sold the first Q45.”

Colleran, who just took over the reins at Infiniti earlier this year, said he was working for another automaker then. “I wasn’t exactly sure what Infiniti was,” he noted, “but I was pretty sure they were spelling it wrong.”

Infiniti was intended to re-define the concept of automotive luxury, but frankly, Infiniti couldn’t even really define itself back then.

An advertising campaign meant to grab attention was instead roundly mocked for showing images of flowing water, raindrops, plants and birds – but not the car itself.

“We still hear about those ads,” Colleran said. “But they must have worked, because people are still talking about them 30 years later.”

The Q45’s simple styling also came in for some criticism as bland, generic and odd – particularly in regards to its grille-less front end treatment. It was rather hurriedly redesigned to include a grille – although it had no purpose (most grilles at the time facilitated engine cooling, but the Q45 was designed not to need that).

Its 4.5-liter V8 should have been a selling point, especially since its 278-horsepower output made it the fastest sedan on the market at the time. But the company decided it was too powerful, and dialed back its performance in subsequent models.

For a time, Infiniti seemed to struggle to find its niche, even as Lexus, the Toyota luxury equivalent, had been launched at the same time to immediate success.

The model line was slowly fleshed out with smaller M-Class siblings, and the QX4 sports utility vehicle (a gussied-up Nissan Pathfinder). And little by little, Infiniti caught on.

Today, Infiniti has strengthened its identity, and distinguished itself further apart from Nissan. Its sedans and sports coupes are known for their sleek styling, powerful performance and refined luxury. Their SUVs pack power and all-terrain capability into a commanding road presence. Technologically, Infiniti separates itself from its competitors with innovations such as its unique variable-compression ratio engine, which maximizes performance and fuel economy as needed.

The company, however, seems to be in constant motion – it moved its global headquarters to Hong Kong under one leader, but now is moving it back to Yokohama under another. It tries to distance itself from Nissan, only to realize the synergies that are beneficial with closer integration. It launched in markets, like Europe, it has now withdrawn from.

For the foreseeable future, Infiniti sees its strengths in North America, the Middle East and China.

For the future, Infiniti faces more change and re-definition.

Colleran said electrification will transform Infiniti in the near future, into a brand that leverages hybrid gasoline and electric technologies.

In showing off some of the future concepts Infiniti is considering, it was pointed out the electric vehicles don’t have front grilles – just like the original Q45.

Maybe, like the strange ads that people haven’t forgotten, Infiniti was on to something.

Jerry Garrett

November 8, 2019

 

 


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