Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s Infiniti, lagging larger German and Japanese luxury brands, is rechristening its models with names starting with Q and QX as the company seeks a bigger share of the premium auto market.
Starting next year with the introduction of the Q50 sedan, a replacement for the current G sport sedan, Infiniti cars will begin with a Q designation, the company said today in a statement. The brand’s light truck names are to begin with QX, with all Infinitis to be renamed for the 2014 model year.
“The need for a new identity and direction to promote consumer familiarity with our model range as we expand the portfolio became evident,” Johan de Nysschen, president of the Hong Kong-based Infiniti brand, said in the statement. “To achieve this, we clearly needed a simple and consistent nomenclature framework.”
In the U.S., the biggest luxury auto market, Infiniti ranks No. 7 in sales this year, trailing Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s BMW, Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Lexus, Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s Acura, General Motors Co. (GM)’s Cadillac and Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi. Sales of Infiniti models gained 23 percent through November to 107,250, aided by the addition of the JX crossover.
“The new naming strategy reminds people of BMW and Volvo, whose sedans and coupes have simple names, with crossovers adding the letter X,” said Takeshi Miyao, managing director at market researcher Carnorama Japan. “Nissan is now focusing on the crossover vehicles in North America so it’s better for it to have distinguishable names from standard models.”
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of Yokohama, Japan- based Nissan, hired de Nysschen, a long-time Audi executive, to revamp Infiniti as the brand seeks a bigger share of China’s fast-growing luxury auto market and boost global sales of the brand to 500,000 units a year.
To assist that goal, Infiniti shifted its global operations to Hong Kong in May. The company also said this year that it will start producing Infiniti vehicles in China in 2014.
The Q50 that will debut in Detroit next month at the North American International Auto Show is a “visible and tangible” sign of the new direction for Infiniti, de Nysschen said in a conference call today from Yokohama.
The current G sedan and coupe models are the brand’s top sellers in the U.S., with a combined 54,328 sales this year, or 51 percent of its volume in that market.
“The new Infiniti naming convention is intuitive and will make it relatively easier for consumers to remember the various models in their lineup,” Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar.com, a vehicle pricing and data website, said by e-mail. “The new Q50 that will be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show will have more direct impact on Infiniti’s future performance than the change in their model names.”
Along with the renamed G sedan, the current G Coupe will become the Q60 and the M sedan will be renamed the Q70, Infiniti said. Among Infiniti’s crossovers, the JX will become the QX60; the EX will be called QX50; the FX model is to be the QX70; and the full-sized QX sport-utility vehicle is the new QX80, the company said.
“The former names were very complicated and didn’t really reflect the style of the vehicles,” Carnorama’s Miyao said.
U.S. headquarters for Nissan and Infiniti are in Franklin, Tennessee.
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