Thanks to stellar sales of its all-electric LEAF hatchback, Nissan is currently the world’s largest electric automaker, so it’s logical to expect Infiniti, its luxury brand, to also lead the charge towards a plug-in future.
Except, says Infiniti Boss Johan de Nysschen, that’s not going to happen. At least, not for any time soon.
Talking with Autocar at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, de Nysschen promised Nissan’s luxury arm would be launching two high-performance flagship models in the near future. But unlike two of Infiniti’s more recent concept cars — the hybrid Infiniti Essence and plug-in hybrid Infiniti Emerg-e — neither will make use of an electrified drivetrain.
“It will not be mid-engined like the Emerg-e, nor a hybrid,” he confirmed. “We’ve got to use the power train in more than one car for economies of scale reasons, so it can’t be mid-engine,” he continued, adding that production versions of the Emerg-e and Essence “will not be coming.”
De Nysschen, who joined the Inifinit brand in 2012 from Audi of Americas, is a known skeptic of plug-in cars. As well as playing a part in Audi’s traditional preference for diesel drivetrains instead of hybrid and plug-in options, de Nysschen famously called Chevrolet Volt buyers “idiots” back in 2009. More recently, de Nysschen has been more careful to temper his personal views on plug-in cars, deciding instead to admit that yes, one day, there will be a plug-in Infiniti.
Just not yet.
As Jim Motavalli from PluginCars notes, this year’s Infiniti stand in Detroit showed no plug-in cars. There was no Emerg-e concept, no Infiniti LE plug-in sedan. Once promised for market as early as 2014, Infiniti’s LEAF-based luxury sedan — which included wireless charging capabilities for the ultimate hasttle-free recharging — is now “delayed indefinitely.”
The reasons, de Nysschen says, are ones defined by business logic. “[We’re] busy building a brand. We have to rank our priorities,” he said. “And the LE ranks lower on our list of options, lower in our priorities.”
That, and de Nysschen’s growing list of previous reasons to not build an EV, including a lack of charging infrastructure, poor battery technology, and limited market potential.
Admittedly, Infiniti does need to increase its market share among mainstream luxury car buyers — predomenandly among China’s rapidly-growing, affluent, brand-consious middle class — in order to regain profitability. In fact, raising the brand’s profile and increasing its market share and appeal was de Nysschen’s primary job when he joined the company in 2012.
But with many of its direct competitors accelerating plans to bring plug-in luxury cars to the market in the coming years — and Tesla Motors’ plan to bring a more affordable , 250-mile ‘Model E’ to market in the next few years — the risk of losing out in the plug-in market altogether is a very real and present one for Nissan’s luxury arm.
Let’s just hope Nissan — which has already hinted at higher-performance EVs in the near future — can fill the gap left by Infiniti’s electric abstinence with a suitably luxurious, high performance EV of its own.
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