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Infiniti Planning Array of New Models

Mainstream and high-performance offerings to be unveiled over summer.

by on May.20, 2010

Sayonara to the "base" GT-R model.

Infiniti, the long-struggling luxury arm of Nissan Motor Co. hopes to punch its way into the top tier of luxury brands, in the coming months, senior officials told TheDetroitBureau.com,  through the launch of an assortment of all-new and updated products.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Infiniti has lagged import leaders like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as well as domestic luxury marque Lincoln and Cadillac.  But the brand has been showing some solid momentum, in recent months, particularly with new models like the third-generation M sedan.  And it hopes to gain even more traction with the launch of the completely redesigned QX56 sport-utility vehicle, just rolling into U.S. showrooms.

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But the brand has even bigger aspirations for an array of additional offerings, including two models that it plans to unveil in August, said Ben Poore, vice president of Infiniti Americas.  That includes a high-performance vehicle and another “mainstream” model which, Poore suggested, “expands our footprint considerably.”

The newest addition to the Infiniti line-up? The all-new 2011 QX56, which goes on sale in June .

The executive was tight-lipped about specifics, though the long-rumored sports car is expected to be based off the same underlying platform as the Nissan GT-R, the most muscular member of that brand’s line-up.  As for the “mainstream” offering, it is almost certain to target the segment now dominated by such import offerings as the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Lexus ES and IS models.

Infiniti also has plans to add a hybrid version of the M, in Spring 2011, while a battery-electric vehicle is also under development.  The latter model will share key mechanical components with the Nissan Leaf “BEV,” which goes into limited fleet sale late this year.

Like the Nissan battery car, Infiniti’s electric vehicle will seat four or five adults and deliver around 100 miles range per charge.  The challenge, noted Poore, is designing a version that isn’t just a Leaf clone but delivers styling and features that would specifically appeal to up-market buyers.

“We’re getting close,” he hinted, though he cautioned that there is “no set date, yet,” for the Infiniti version’s launch.

While Infiniti could deliver some surprises, especially when it pulls the wraps off its two new models during a “reveal” at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, this coming August, it is considered all but certain the maker’s focus will remain on the low to middle luxury segments in its bid to drive up volume, which slipped to just 81,089, last year, a roughly 40% decline from its sales peak in the middle of the last decade.

Though Infiniti officials continue to suggest they are looking at the premium luxury segment dominated by the likes of the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series and Lexus LS, nothing seems to be imminent.  The maker’s original launch, two decades ago, was hinged to its top-line Q45.  But the most recent version of the sedan generated mediocre reviews and minimal sales, and was pulled from the market several years ago.

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