Infiniti Through the Years
Infiniti began by offering cars solely to the North American market. However, since the brand started out in 1989, Infiniti continually expanded its operations and the marketing network for its vehicles to include more than 230 dealerships in 15 different countries. However, Nissan does not employ the Infiniti marque in Japan, where most of the Infiniti models are available under the Nissan brand.
The Infiniti brand was designed specifically with the American market in mind. The company’s marketing strategy was to target the premium segment of the U.S. auto market, much the way Honda did with its own luxury brand, Acura. Toyota also launched its own luxury brand, Lexus, during the same period.
Infiniti’s first offering in the U.S. market was the Q45. A full-size four-door luxury sedan, the Q45 featured a V-8 engine and rear-wheel drive. The vehicle was intended to compete directly with the Lexus LS, while also undercutting more expensive vehicles such as the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
In 1990, the M30 debuted. Initially available as a two-door luxury coupe, the M30 was essentially a rebranded version of the Nissan Leopard, which was previously available on the Japanese domestic market. The M30 was available only briefly between 1990 and 1992. However, in the 1990s, Infiniti introduced a wider variety of vehicles into the American market. These included the 1991 Infiniti G20, and the 1993 four-door J30 sedan.
The automaker’s sales in the U.S. declined slightly in the mid-1990s. But by the late-1990s, Infiniti regained its footing. In 1997, it released its first SUV, the QX4, which was based on the Nissan Pathfinder. It was midsize and offered all the comforts of a luxury sedan on the chassis of a rugged four-wheel drive vehicle. The QX4 sold well in the U.S. market until it was discontinued in 2003 to make way for the QX56.
In the early 2000s, Infiniti found further success with the G35. A compact executive car had an entry-level price tag and caught on widely with American drivers as it enabled Infiniti to achieve a new level of sales success. While it may not have succeeded in surpassing BMW, Mercedes, or even Lexus in sales, Infiniti still commanded a respectable segment of the U.S. market.
The Infiniti G is still available as a sedan and as a coupe. The 2011 G25 sedan is powered by a 2.5 liter V-6 engine and was designed to compete with cars like the Lexus IS250 and the BMW 328i. Infiniti also manufactures a version with a 328-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 known as the G37.
The 2004 Infiniti QX56 was introduced to pick up where the original QX4 left off. As a full-size luxury SUV, it boasts a powerful V-8 engine and excellent towing capabilities. Like many luxury SUVs, the QX56 wasn’t designed as an offroad vehicle as it was a stylish urban recreational vehicle.
Infiniti discontinued the Q45 in the United States in 2006. The original M35 and M45 were sold alongside the Q45 for several years, but eventually replaced the trailblazing model completely. Those models eventually gave way to Infiniti’s current versions, the V-6 M37, V-8 M56, and the hybrid M35h. The new Infiniti M models feature more elegant, stylish lines than their predecessors, and their appearance has been compared to classic European performance brands like Jaguar and Maserati.
Another of the current models featured by Infiniti is the FX. Like the QX56, it was designed to fill the hole left by the original QX4. However, the QX is a full-size, truck-based SUV; the FX is a midsize crossover. It was unveiled in 2003, the same year as the similarly sized Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90.
While Infiniti didn't garner the sort of sales figures it hoped for when it entered into the U.S. market, its cars have remained popular with American drivers for more than two decades. More reliable and cheaper to maintain than many other similar luxury cars, Infiniti offer an appealing combination of style, affordability, class, and performance.