Nissan sees premium auto growth, renames Infiniti models

Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:01pm EST
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By Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) - Nissan's (7201.T: Quote) upscale Infiniti division expects the global premium car market to grow 8 percent next year as strong U.S. demand offsets flat western European sales, brand chief Johan de Nysschen said.

De Nysschen was speaking ahead of a Tuesday announcement that Infiniti's model line-up is to be renamed as it pursues a bigger share of European and Chinese luxury car sales.

"With the global market expanding from the U.S. where we are strong, that bodes well for us," he said in a telephone interview.

The Japanese automaker's plan to turn Infiniti into a major global premium brand hinges on production in Europe and China backed by an expanded range of models and engines, some developed in a partnership between Daimler (DAIGn.DE: Quote) and the Renault-Nissan alliance.

Infiniti, so far manufactured almost exclusively in Japan, is simplifying its vehicle names as it prepares to expand the line-up, it said on Tuesday.

Beginning with 2014 models going on sale in the second half of next year, future and existing Infiniti cars will carry the prefix "Q" followed by a number broadly reflecting its size, the company said. Crossover and SUV names will begin "QX".

A new mid-sized Q50, which will be shown at the Detroit auto show in January, will replace the brand's G sedan. The sports coupe variant will become the Q60.

The changes will "promote consumer familiarity with our model range as we expand the portfolio", the company said.   Continued...