NEW YORK – Infiniti earlier this year announced it would rename its G37 model Q40 for the ’15 model year.
Now the Nissan luxury brand says it will keep the Q40 name even after the car formerly known as the G37 exits the lineup.
“At some point we'll have another model that will sit below the Q50, so it's going to be a legacy nomenclature,” Infiniti Americas Vice President Michael Bartsch tells WardsAuto in an interview here during an Infiniti Q70 media preview.
The G37 has stuck around the Infiniti lineup in spite of its advanced age and the introduction of its successor, the Q50, one year ago.
To Infiniti executives, the car gives the brand a lower entry price in the highly competitive Lower Luxury car segment in the U.S. until a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cyl. arrives for the Q50 in 2015. At that time the current G37/Q40, introduced in 2006 as an ’07 model, is due to exit the brand's lineup.
The G37/Q40 also gives Infiniti U.S. dealers a vehicle other than the Q50 to discount, as brand executives fear incentivizing the newer model would harm its cachet in the luxury market.
As for what the next Q40 will look like, Bartsch is mum.
“There's nothing defined yet we can talk about in terms of model specifics or design specifics, but what is very clear is that we will have a clear step in models,” he says. “You'll have a Q30, a Q40, a Q50, a Q60 and then we'll work our way up there...just as BMW has a 1-Series, a 2-Series, a 3-Series and so on."
Bartsch won’t say if the Q40 will continue to complement the Q50, in the same way Lexus’ ES and IS sedans coexist in the Lower Luxury car segment.
Another possibility is the Q40 could become a coupe version of the forthcoming Q30, a hatchback/CUV-type car due next year. Turning the Q40 into a coupe would follow the strategy Infiniti has in place with the Q60, the former G37 coupe, and mimic BMW, which now uses even numbers for its 2-door cars.
Meanwhile, Bartsch is silent on an arrival date for a production version of the Infiniti LE electric concept car.
The vehicle, once slated to arrive in 2014, then 2015, has been back-burnered for the time being, although until when is a mystery.
When asked if rumors of an introduction date near 2020 are true, Bartsch says: “The best thing is not to prophesize. It could come forward, it could go back. I can't tell you one way or another.”
He promises Infiniti will have an EV, as it’s a necessary product to meet stricter U.S. fuel-economy and emissions regulations, but says at the moment the brand has bigger priorities.
“Right now Infiniti has to consolidate what it's doing with what I would call the core of the business,” he says. “And once we consolidate more with the core of the business (the EV is) going to become a matter of course.”
In earlier delays of the production version of the LE, which was shown at the 2012 New York auto show, Infiniti blamed the car's battery technology and/or wireless charging technology as not being ready for prime time.
Bartsch says Infiniti is not alone on the waiting list for better, range-increasing lithium-ion batteries, nor in wondering when they will arrive.
“That's the key issue for everybody, is where is battery technology going to go,” he says. “It's such an open book at the moment.”
He also notes most EVs still are more expensive than similarly sized models with internal combustion engines, and this often requires manufacturers to heavily discount them.
Infiniti is pulling back on incentives as much as possible to build brand prestige, Bartsch says.