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Infiniti is Nissan's luxury brand in the United States, Canadian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, South Korean (first dealership opened in July 2005) and Taiwanese markets. Nissan also has plans to release Infiniti into many European markets (Russia & Ukraine in 2007, United Kingdom in 2008), China (10 dealerships by 2007), as well as in Japan sometime after 2008.
Infiniti vehicles are traditionally based on the same automobile platforms as Nissan models. In some cases, similar vehicles are sold as upscale Nissans in the same market, while other Infinitis are rebadged models from the Japanese market, where Nissan's model range includes high-end luxury vehicles. More recently, the differentiation between Nissan and Infiniti vehicles has become greater, and even where two models may share a similar platform, Infinitis tend to feature more powerful engines, tuned suspensions, steering systems, and more luxurious interior appointments.
Infiniti's model name designation includes one letter for coupés and sedans (two letters for SUVs) and a number reflecting engine displacement. For example, the QX56 is an SUV featuring a 5.6 L engine and the Q45 is Infiniti's flagship sedan, featuring a 4.5 L engine. The one exception to this was the QX4 SUV, which featured a 3.3 L engine (1997-2000) and later a 3.5 L engine (2001-2003). An 'x' following the engine displacement of Infiniti sedans denotes an all wheel drive model (e.g. Infiniti G35x).
As a luxury brand Infiniti have positioned themselved to meet the needs of both practical users and those seeking style. There was a conscious push for this overlapping approach in terms of branding from around 2010 onwards. Luxury SUVs now account for a large proportion of their sales in the US market.
Infiniti was introduced in the United States by Nissan in 1989, to rival Toyota and Honda's introduction of their own luxury brands, Lexus and Acura, respectively. A series of Zen-inspired advertisements, which became known as the "rocks and trees" campaign, aimed to bring about brand awareness. The advertisements, however, neglected to feature any of Infiniti's models, and thus failed to generate adequate sales. Better advertising and the introduction of award-winning models eventually made Infiniti a chief contender in the luxury vehicle segment of the American market. Since 1989, sales have consistently grown.
Infiniti began to take part of the luxury market mostly thanks to its popular Q45. The vehicle included a class leading (at the time) 278 hp (207 kW)V8 engine, four-wheel steering, the first active suspension system offered on a motor vehicle, and numerous interior luxury appointments. These made it competitive against the comparatively uninspiring engines and interiors found in German imports like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which by the time of Infiniti's release had overtaken Cadillac and Lincoln in dominating the luxury segment of the American market.
In 1997, Infiniti released the QX4, a modified and more luxurious version of the Nissan Pathfinder, making Infiniti the first maker (apart from SUV specialists, Jeep and Land Rover) to offer a mid-sized luxury SUV - predating the release of the Lexus RX 300 and the Mercedes-Benz ML320. Like a traditional SUV, it was based on a truck platform, which gave it a competitive edge against the aforementioned competitors for its off-roading abilities.
By the late 1990s, however, Infiniti was consistently behind Lexus and even near-luxury rival Acura, in sales due to Nissan's struggling financial situation. The Q45 had retreated considerably from its focused, taut rendition of an executive sedan, having become a barely recognizable, ponderously-handling sedan that earned the nickname "The Japanese Lincoln." In 1999, Infiniti reintroduced the G20, a compact sporty sedan that was sold between 1991 and 1995. The car had hopes of challenging BMW, but with an underpowered four cylinder engine, fell short. Infiniti's other offerings, the Maxima-based I30 and the strange-looking J30 never garnered strong followings, and the company, bereft of an image or a following, floundered.
By the early 2000s, Infiniti was facing extinction. Its own impending doom being perhaps the best motivator, the company rededicated itself to developing a dynamic and powerful line-up of sporty luxury cars. Car and Driver reported that Infiniti executives invited members of the motoring press to a meeting where they "swore never again to take their eyes off BMW." Although this effort began with a completely redesigned Q45 flagship for the 2002 model year, it was the G35 that finally turned sales around for Infiniti in 2003. A compact sports sedan far exceeding the capabilities of its Nissan Primera-based predecessor (the G20), the Nissan Skyline-based G35 became an instant hit. The release of the sport tuned FX45 sport utility vehicle piggybacked on the G35's success. The FX45 combined sports-car handling and performance with station wagon-like versatility and all-weather capability. In 2004, Infiniti graced the G35 with an all-wheel drive (AWD) option in an effort to sway buyers from all-wheel drive mecca Audi.
Today, Infiniti's sales and reputation continue to increase impressively as Carlos Ghosn follows through on his vision to break Infiniti away from its Nissan roots. The G35 series helped re-define Infiniti as the "Japanese BMW", an image it continues to cultivate. This reputation has been enhanced by the FX35/FX45 SUV, and the redesigned M35/M45 for the 2006 model year. The M35/M45 has already garnered impressive acclaim from the automotive press, winning an eight-car comparison test in Car and Driver, and has proven very popular in its first few months of sales.
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- Infiniti FX (FX35 and FX45 variations)
- Infiniti G35 (sedan, AWD sedan, and coupe derivations)
- Infiniti M (M35/M35x and M45 variations)
- Infiniti Q45
- Infiniti QX56
- Infiniti EX