Infiniti Eyes Producing an Electric Car for China

By · October 25, 2016

The Infiniti LE Concept made its world debut at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. Two years later, production was cancelled.

Infiniti told in 2014 that its plans for an all-electric car were “delayed indefinitely.” Well, it appears that the indefinite period could soon come to end—as the luxury brand considers producing an EV primarily for China’s growing auto market. Bloomberg reported last week that Infiniti is internally discussing the right timing for introducing an electric car in China.

“When I think about EV, we design it for China definitely, even as the first market to launch,” said Roland Krueger, president of Infiniti, in an interview in Hong Kong earlier this month. The mention of a “first market,” suggests other markets would follow. Yet, there was no indication if an EV from Infiniti would be sold in the United States.

Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, unveiled an impressive all-electric LE concept car shown in 2012—promising that it would be built in about two years. That was soon after Nissan became an early leader in pure electric vehicles with the introduction of the LEAF. The company promised a suite of multiple battery-electric cars to follow the LEAF, but those follow-up EVs did not materialize. In 2012, Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chief executive said, “No other luxury brand has the corporate EV experience, the advanced battery technology, or the sustainable product credibility to claim a leadership position in zero emission luxury. No one except Infiniti."

Bloomberg last week indicated that Infiniti—considering its ability to leverage Nissan’s investment in batteries and electric powertrains—could move “very fast” to offer an electric after it makes a decision to go ahead.

The LE used a 134-horsepower electric motor, providing 240 pound-feet of torque, and a 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack to provide about 80 miles of driving range. Since its unveiling, the industry has moved to larger battery packs providing longer range—a move that would be necessary for a new Infiniti EV, in order to be competitive with new electric cars like the 200-mile Chevy Bolt.

Johan de Nysschen—Infiniti’s president at the time the LE was delayed—said a plug-in car was not a priority for the brand. “The LE ranks lower on our list of options, lower in our priorities,” he said. de Nysschen changed his view on plug-in vehicles in 2015, after becoming president of Cadillac. “We will roll out plug-in hybrids across our portfolio,” he said, referring to Cadillac’s plans. “It’s part of confirming the progressive nature of the brand.”

It’s not uncommon for auto executives to vacillate about introducing models with new technology. In December 2015, Francois Goupil de Bouille, Infiniti's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, told journalists, “We currently do not plan the introduction of an electric vehicle.”

According to Automotive News, de Bouille also said that Infiniti could easily change its mind at any time—based on consumer demand. “If we can see a need from the customer then we can do it,” he said.

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