YOKOHAMA, Japan--Nissan plans to introduce a compact, entry-level Infiniti model below the G series to compete against such cars as the Audi A3 and Lexus CT 200h. The car would be part of a global product blitz to build Infiniti's lineup to 10 vehicles from 7 by 2017.
The car would be based on theshown in March at the Geneva auto show, a person familiar with the plan says.
The slope-roofed compact will come in addition to the Infiniti JX crossover and an Infiniti-badged electric vehicle based on the Nissan Leaf EV. The latter will share the Leaf's platform and drivetrain but have unique Infiniti styling, trim, and features, the person said.
Nissan is pushing the Infiniti brand into new territory as the Japanese carmaker strives to grab 8 percent of the world auto market in the next six years under a new midterm business plan unveiled June 27. While announcing the plan, CEO Carlos Ghosn said he wants Infiniti to win 10 percent of the global luxury market in that time frame.
In terms of volume, Infiniti aims to increase global sales to 500,000 units by 2017, from about 150,000 units today, the company says. The campaign also will entail building Infiniti models overseas; the cars have been made in Japan since production of the QX56 SUV, the only Infiniti made overseas, was moved back from Canton, Miss., early last year.
"I cannot imagine that 500,000 Infiniti cars are going to be shipped from one location," Ghosn said of future production sites. "The natural location is North America and/or China."
Part of Nissan's strategy is to cover more segments. Ghosn said the 64 models in the Nissan and Infiniti lineup now cover about 80 percent of global segments. But that will increase to 66 models covering 92 percent by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, he pledged.
Infiniti will expand into 71 global markets, from 36 today, he said.
Nissan is targeting the entry-luxury segment for Infiniti because the market is big and the company expects higher sales in that class than in others, the source said.
Through June, Infiniti's U.S. sales were flat, with 47,268 vehicles sold. The Infiniti G accounted for about 60 percent of the brand's sales in the period.
The JX, expected to be built in North America, is due to arrive in the spring of 2012, and the EV will come by 2014, Ghosn said.
The EV will share many underpinnings with the Leaf, which will be built in Japan, North America, and Europe. Ghosn said the EV "very likely" will be made at the Infiniti assembly plant in Tochigi, Japan, north of Tokyo.
(Source: Automotive News)