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More Infiniti models in the balance to expand sales

Top 50: The QX50 is unlikely to be added to the Australian Infiniti line-up until the next-generation version arrives.

Mid-size SUV and compact sedan under review as Infiniti pushes its Australian market

17 Feb 2016

INFINITI is looking to shake up its model range, with the chief of the car-maker's Australia arm admitting that a mid-size SUV and a compact sedan are on the company's wish list.

Nissan's premium brand has a small model line-up in Australia, consisting of the Q50 and Q70 sedans, Q60 coupe and convertible and QX70 and QX80 SUVs, with the Q30 hatch and QX30 crossover coming in the third quarter of the year.

Infiniti Australia managing director Jean-Philippe Roux this week said that sharing platforms and drivetrains for Infiniti’s new entry level, compact-sized Q30 hatchback could spawn a wider model range.

He said that a Q30 sedan, based on the platform of the forthcoming Q30/QX30 twins, may not be out of the question.

“It is too early to tell,” he said at the media launch of the Q70 sedan in Victoria this week. “Certainly the sedan has potential but we’re not focused on that yet.

“The SUVs and crossovers are more important at the moment.”

Mr Roux said that does not mean the sedan won’t happen “but we have to hit the right segments first”.

While it is yet to be announced by Infiniti, a Q30 sedan has the potential to repeat the success of the Mercedes CLA sedan that uses a similar platform and the same drivetrain as the Q30.

The Q30 and QX30 are made at Nissan's plant in the United Kingdom and under an alliance with Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, shares the engines, transmissions, basic suspension and the core platform.

The relationship, and the fact that Mercedes already makes the CLA sedan based on its A-Class, is firmed by the customer preference for a sedan in the compact prestige market.

Also under investigation by Infiniti Australia is a mid-size SUV to compete with the popular Audi Q5, BMW X3 and recently launched Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Infiniti Australia product planning manager Bernard Michel said “medium SUV is where we want to be”.

“We have the large QX70 but the medium SUV is where you want to be as large-car owners move into that segment for functionality and packaging,” he said.

“There's a QX50 overseas but in its current form it's probably too close to QX70.

“If there's a next-generation version, up against the X3, Q5 and Macan, that's where there's been exponential growth in the market.”

Infiniti’s QX50, which is not available in Australia, is based on the Q50/Japanese-market Skyline platform and shares the common 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine and seven-speed transmission, driving either the rear wheels or all wheels.

For 2016, global markets get a new platform with an additional 75mm added to the wheelbase to overcome criticism of the limited rear legroom.

But as Mr Michel said, that increase puts the QX50 physically close to the existing QX70.

The Infiniti QX60 seven-seat SUV has been looked at to bolster the Australian line-up but as yet is not made in right-hand drive and maybe too big for the mid-size sector.

In Australia the SUV market continues to strengthen, even boosting appeal of the car-maker's large SUV, the V8 Patrol-based QX80.

“We launched QX80 late last year and it has performed beyond our expectations,” he said. “It’s a big vehicle but very well equipped and very comfortable.

“We have new customers who were looking at Range Rover and Porsche SUVs, so that’s the segment we are working in.”

The hulking SUV launched in late July last year and Infiniti shifted 37 units last year and a further six in January.

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