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New York show: Infiniti on a charge

Electric future: Infiniti will produce an EV sedan based on the Nissan Leaf in the next few years, but the production future of the Emerg-e (left) is less clear.

Leaf-based Infiniti electric sedan set for Big Apple peel ahead of 2014 release

8 Mar 2012


INFINITI’S first all-electric vehicle will be revealed in concept form at next month’s New York motor show.

The car is set to go into production in 2014, and is one of seven model lines destined for Australia by 2015.

Fresh from showing a plug-in range-extender hybrid concept sportscar – the Emerg-e – at this week’s Geneva motor show, Nissan’s prestige brand will unwrap the Leaf-based EV sedan in the United States, where Nissan has just started local production of Leaf at its Smyna plant in Tennessee.

In New York, Nissan will also show off its all-new Altima mid-size range that is also destined for Australia.

While the Infiniti sedan EV is based on Leaf, it will be one size bigger, around the size of the Ford Mondeo or Toyota Camry, on a stretched version of the Leaf’s underpinnings.

Nissan’s corporate vice-president for Infiniti, Toru Saito, told Australian journalists at the Geneva motor show that the new Infiniti EV would use a more advanced version of the Leaf’s lithium-ion electric powertrain technology.

16 center imageLeft: Infiniti corporate vice president Toru Saito.

“It will take the same technology from Leaf, and we will make it better,” he said.

Mr Saito said that, while many companies were designing similar vehicles – “everybody is doing it” – he believes Nissan/Infiniti has the technology and the cost management to do it better.

While the new unnamed EV sedan is destined for production in the next two years, Mr Saito was less confident about the chances of the Emerg-e plug-in range-extender sportscar making into production in its current form.

Mr Saito described it as a design language test, reaction to which had been “so positive”.

Asked about its chances of production, Mr Saito said: “I would not say it is zero. After this, we will discuss internally what to do.”

Mr Saito said Infiniti needed a halo model at the top of the Infiniti range, and that Emerg-e was “part of our homework in future model plans”.

The Emerg-e – designed in the UK and developed in co-operation with Lotus Engineering, which supplied the mid-mounted three-cylinder petrol engine that works with two electric motors to drive the rear wheels – features expensive carbon-fibre body panels and other technologies that are unlikely to be practical in a production car.

Mr Saito revealed that the return of Infiniti to Australia had been delayed by the global financial crisis in 2007, along with many other projects within Infiniti.

He said the economic recovery in 2009 had allowed the company to restart the process of setting up in Australia, where Infiniti Cars Australia is now set to start distribution of three model lines through a small east coast dealer network this year.

Mr Saito said the challenge for Infiniti in Australia would be building brand awareness in a luxury market dominated by well established players.

However, he said the company would not try to push sales volumes, instead taking it steadily over the first one to two years.

“We cannot bombard the market with lots of advertising,” he said.

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