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China luxury car market presents a new challenge for Nissan and Infiniti

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Yuya Shino/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Infiniti chief designer Alfonso Albaisa stands behind a quarter sized model of the Infiniti Emerg E car during an interview with Reuters at Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, south of Tokyo. Infiniti is partnering with Chinese automaker Dongfeng to expand its presence in the China luxury car market.

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Infiniti may have just lost its turnaround strategist Johan de Nysschen but the automaker has no intention of slowing down the expansion plans devised under the guidance of the South African executive. Infiniti recently appointed a new chief in the form of former BMW exec Roland Krüger, and at the 2014 Paris Auto Show next week the automaker will present a grand concept car previewing a new high-end model likely to be badged a Q80.

Other models in the pipeline include the entry-level Q30, as well as its QX30 crossover spinoff, and we should also see a production version of the Q50 Eau Rouge concept eventually. Another important model will be a replacement for the aging Q60 (previously the G35 Coupe), which the design chief for all Nissan brands, Shiro Nakamura, revealed to Top Gear will make its debut in 2015, meaning we’ll likely see it in showrooms as a 2016 model.

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Although Nakamura didn’t call the new coupe a Q60, he said it will target the BMW 4-Series, which the current Q60 targets. He also said the new coupe will be slightly larger than the 4-Series and feature a design influenced by the Q80 Inspiration concept set to be unveiled in Paris next week. Other potential rivals for the new coupe include the Audi A5, Cadillac ATS Coupe, Lexus RC and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe.

Importantly, Nakamura also said the new coupe could be fitted with the Nissan GT-R’s 560-horsepower powertrain. He explained that if the Q50 Eau Rouge with the GT-R engine is given the green light, then an Eau Rouge version of the new coupe with the same engine could also be put into production.

Right now, however, Infiniti is focused on higher volume models and boosting sales in important markets such as China. Today, Infiniti announced that it is partnering with Chinese automaker Dongfeng to grow its operations in the world’s largest car market.

The goal is to consolidate and further develop China as a second global volume hub after the U.S., and continue to deepen operations in the four areas of brand, product, production and management. Infiniti's mid-term target in China is to raise its annual sales to 100,000 cars by 2018, over half of which are to be locally built models. Infiniti will start production of two models in China this November as one of the first phases of its partnership with Dongfeng. The models will be long-wheelbase versions of the Q50 and QX50.


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