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The Maverick of Japanese Automobile Art – Infiniti Brand History

Compared with many European and American famous brands with a history of 100 years, Infiniti of Nissan can only be regarded as a young man. But almost the same as Lexus’s rapid popularity in North America. In just over 20 years, with its unique avant-garde design concept, excellent product performance and considerate customer service, Infiniti has undoubtedly become one of the important brands in the North American luxury car market. And its brand models have also successfully entered the mainstream markets in Europe and Asia. Of course, rapid development doesn’t means roses all the way.

■ November 1989-1990:
Nissan’s high-end luxury brand – Infiniti was born in the United States

The brand logo means “infinite” and advocates personalized design; Infiniti Q45 and M30, modeled after Nissan President and Leopard models, were launched in the United States in 1990.

After experiencing the economic downturn in the early 1980s, the North American luxury market showed signs of full recovery. Based on the demand of brand image improvement, similar to Toyota and Honda, Nissan’s senior executives also decided to set up a high-end brand to enter the North American market in November 1985, and set up a “horizon working group” to start researching the North American luxury car market opportunities. Until July 1987, the plan began to be implemented gradually, and finally Infiniti was designed as the final brand logo and name. Infiniti is literally translated as “infinite”, and its oval logo represents a road of infinite extension. The Shape is similar to the deformed “∞” logo. The elliptic curve represents the meaning of infinite expansion and also symbolizes “the whole world”. The two straight lines converging towards the center represent the road to the peak, symbolizing endless development. It also implies that the essence of this brand also extends to perfect customer satisfaction.

In 1990, Infiniti’s first mass-produced car, the Q45, was launched in the United States, and its rivals locked in D-class cars of European and American luxury brands

With the release of the new brand, Infiniti launched the Infiniti Q45 and the coupe M30 based on the Nissan President and Leopard models. And from 1990 to 2006, the full-size luxury car Q45 has been regarded as the flagship model of Infiniti. This front-engine rear-drive model is equipped with a 4.5-liter V8 engine, with a maximum power of 278 horsepower, a maximum torque of 396 Nm, and a VLSD (viscous limited-slip differential) as standard. However, the successor model is based on Nissan Cima. In the US market, The main competitors of this model are Jaguar XJ, Cadillac Fleetwood and the more expensive BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Although it has undergone three changes during the service period to cater for consumer preferences, it is limited by the reality of weak brand recognition. The sales volume of Infiniti Q45 is not as good as expected, and it was finally replaced by M35 and M45, which were newly designed in 2006.

According to the personalized demand, the M30 models launched in the same year with Q45 are divided into hardtop version and convertible version, but the brand recognition and moderate performance restrict its market performance

A similar fate also fell on the coupe M30. Infiniti’s M30 two-door coupe model launched in North America is the American version of the Nissan Leopard F31. The Leopard F31 was originally aimed at the Acura Legend coupe. However, Infiniti M30 does not have many power options like Leopard F31. The M30’s only 3.0-liter V6 engine has a power output of only 131 kilowatts (162 horsepower). It cannot bring driving pleasure to this 1512-kilogram rear-drive car. In addition, the lack of brand genes makes it difficult for North American users who pay attention to the history of the car to raise interest. The M30 has only a 3-year life cycle, and the convertible version of the M30 is more short-lived, and it was announced that it will be discontinued after only 2 years of sales. It is because it shares many parts with 240SX, 300ZX and the early Skyline, making it possible to install a stronger engine and manual transmission, and can also replace the suspension and differential to greatly improve vehicle performance. In fact, in Japan and the United States, the modified M30 and Leopard are often used for drift racing.

■ 1991-1998:
Make persistent efforts to launch a variety of models; fuzzy positioning and financial crisis make it far behind the competitors

Infiniti continue to launch new cars for the North American market frequently, including the birth of its first luxury SUV – QX4. But contrary to this: blindly launching new car models and rapidly expanding market strategies has not received positive feedback, and brand development was once in crisis. In fact, it is not just the Infiniti brand. Throughout the 1990s, it can be said that many Japanese brands have intensively launched models in North America for this ten years. However, unlike the European and American giants who spare no effort to shape the brand image, Japanese luxury brands in those days hope to seize the new opportunities in the North American market and sell their models in large quantities. Infiniti is no exception. Almost throughout the 1990s, several models were introduced. The products of blind expansion have mostly become obsolete in the market, and the heavy debt burden has also made the young Infiniti’s future full of uncertain.

In 1991, the first generation of G20 was launched and positioned as an entry-level luxury car. Later, it has been changed several times

In 1991, Infiniti’s first-generation of G20 began to be sold in the US market. It was positioned as an entry-level luxury sedan, and it emphasized that it was specifically manufactured for customer control. It advertise the slogan “born in Japan, grown in Europe, unveiled in the United States.” All of the G20 are front-drive models, and the G20 wagon model was launched in 1994, named G20t. The second-generation of G20, which had undergone several improvements in May 1998, went offline and readjusted the suspension. Although this approach has caused many fans’ doubts, the more comfortable driving experience and the larger interior space made the G20’s target user group more extensive.

The J30 was launched in 1992 and learned the lessons of the M30. The body design incorporates a lot of new elements. It is also Infiniti’s first mid-level car

After the M30 was discontinued, Infiniti launched a new J30 series in 1992 to replace it. As Infiniti’s first intermediate car, its size is between G20 model and Q45 model, but the J30 is still relatively small in luxury car markets (including BMW 5 series and Mercedes Benz E-class). But it is worth mentioning that the J30’s appearance draws heavily on the elements of Jazz and art photos. Its power system uses a 3.0-liter VG30DEV6 engine (shared with 300ZX), and its maximum power and torque are 210 horsepower and 260 Nm respectively. During the entire production cycle of the J30, there have been few major changes. The only few improvements include: In 1994, electric heated seats became standard; in 1995, vertical ribs were added to the taillight lens; in 1996, the on-board diagnostics system was upgraded to “OBD2”. It was finally discontinued in June 1997.

In 1996, I30 replaced J30 and went on the market. After many improvements, the overall sales volume was acceptable (discontinued in 2004)

The J30 was replaced by the I30, the price was more reasonable, and soon became the best-selling model of Infiniti. Compared with the J series, the I series is more sporty and more aggressive in appearance. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Infiniti made several improvements to the I30.

In 1997, Infiniti QX4 was launched on the market, and its obvious advantages compared with same-class models finally opened the deadlock of Infiniti brand

But it was the birth of the QX4, the first SUV model of Infiniti, that really makes Infiniti out of the dilemma. The QX4, derived from Nissan Pathfinder, can be regarded as a pioneer of urban LSUV models, and was launched in the United States in 1997. At that time, the RX of Lexus has not yet been born, and Toyota 4Runner can not compete with it. QX4 has almost become the dominant Japanese LSUV in the North American market in the 1990s. Domineering styling and excellent four-wheel drive system is a major feature of QX4. So far, the Infiniti brand has truly embarked on the development road of a recognized luxury brand.

A turning point in a bleak fate, the injection of Renault Group gave Infiniti a new life

The development of the brand is always full of difficulties and challenges. Even though Nissan’s luxury brands have begun to gain a firm foothold in the North American market, by the late 1990s, the Nissan Group was facing a severe financial crisis. As of 1999, Nissan’s debt has reached 19 billion US dollars. The redesigned Q45 also in trouble. The Infiniti brand lost its direction for a while, and its creative styling design and sporty style began to be forgotten. Infiniti’s dealers in North America even mistakenly targeted user groups to middle-aged professional women.

On May 28, 1999, it was a day of history for Renault Group, Nissan Group and Infiniti brand. On this day, Renault Group bought 36.8% of Nissan’s equity at a price of 400 Yen per share for 4.86 billion dollars. In addition, Renault also acquired Nissan’s five financial subsidiaries in Europe for 305 million dollars. So the Renault spent a total of about 5.2 billion dollars to complete the transaction. The Renault-Nissan alliance group was established, and Frenchman Carlos Ghosn took up the post of president and CEO.

In 2000, Infiniti was repositioned as a high-performance luxury sports brand. In 2003, it launched the famous G35

The dilemma quickly changed. In 2000, Infiniti executives held a press conference to announce a new market strategy and launched a newly designed Q45 flagship model in 2002, proving themselves to be BMW’s real rival in North America. The G35 designed on the basis of Nissan Skyline, which was born in the second year, has also become the annual model selected by many media. As a luxury sports car, G35 won the “car model of the year” honor by “Motor Trend”. In 2004, the G35 Sport Sedan added a four-wheel drive version, robbing many users from Audi and BMW. In 2004, the G35 Sport Sedan added a four-wheel drive version, robbing many users from Audi and BMW.

In 2004, FX and EX models featuring comprehensive sports models and SUV models were launched, and the good reputation established the development goal of the brand to go global in the future

Based on the brand nature and the popularity of urban SUV in the emerging luxury car consumer market, EX and FX models with distinctive Crossover styles came into being. After the launch of the G35 in 2003, the newly launched first-generation of FX35/45 was also been highly praised in the market. It combines the handling performance of sports car and the versatility of SUV, and the new design style is exciting. It is equipped with almost all of Infiniti’s latest technologies-a 5.0-liter V8 engine with an intelligent continuously variable valve lift system (VVEL) and continuously variable valve timing (CVTCS), a fast and smooth 7-speed automatic transmission, an intelligent chassis damping control, active steering of the rear wheels, intelligent four-wheel drive system, panoramic surveillance image, and intelligent cruise control with automatic acceleration and braking functions.

■From 2005 to now: Adhere to the positioning of sports luxury brand, the brand goes to the global market

After finding a new development direction, Infiniti began to enter the rapid development of 10 years. On the one hand, it accelerates the standardization system of brand retail stores. On the other hand, it invests in consumers’ favor and develops unique and attractive new cars. Infiniti’s retail environment design initiative (IREDI) was formed in the US market in 2005, and South Korea’s Infiniti flagship store became the first retailer to implement it. The IREDI global standard sets detailed requirements for external design and internal environment, and successfully leaving a luxury and elegance brand image to consumers through deliberately creating a consumption environment.

At the same time, the latest generation G37 series is further upgraded based on the elegant design and powerful performance of the previous generation G35. The equipped 3.7-liter VQ37HR engine uses a continuously variable valve lift system (VVEL), a maximum power of 325 horsepower and a maximum torque of 361 Nm. And match the agile and smooth new manual 7-speed automatic transmission, drivers can fully experience speed and passion. The FX35/45 and G35 Sport Coupe launched afterwards have achieved great success.

Compared with the first generation model, the newly modified FX50 also has more powerful performance, with a maximum power of 390 horsepower and a maximum torque of 500 Nm, and can accelerate from static to 100 km/h in less than 6 seconds. The shape design is also more sturdy. The headlight group known as the “drop-shaped” design looks powerful. The wavy engine compartment cover further strengthens the bulge parts on two sides. The newly added vents at the rear of the front wheel arch not only reduces the lifting force of the front, but also enhances the visual effect.

In 2005, Nissan group’s “Nissan value-added plan” was born, and Infiniti brand officially went global

With the success of North American market, Nissan launched a three-year “Nissan value-added plan” in 2005, which takes the promotion of Infiniti in the world as one of the important strategic measures, and takes the Middle East, South Korea, Russia and China as the key target markets for global expansion. Facts have proved that Nissan’s judgment is correct. The North American market is in recession, so it is more wise to enter Asia and Europe. In July 2005, the first Infiniti dealership in South Korea was officially opened; in August 2006, Infiniti appeared at the Moscow motor show; in April 2007, Infiniti G35 and FX series SUV appeared at the Shanghai auto show. In March 2008, Infiniti showed its main models at the 78th Geneva International Auto Show, marking the official landing of Infiniti in the European market.

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