LINDSAY CHAPPELL

Why the Infiniti-AMG rumor doesn't float

Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News.Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News.
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Today's wildfire rumor is that Nissan's Infiniti luxury brand is going to get a screaming Mercedes-Benz V-8 to put into a new performance version of the flagship Infiniti M sedan.

The 6.2-liter engine from Mercedes' AMG performance operations would allow Infiniti to pit the M against Mercedes' own E63. And this all makes perfect sense because corporate parents Nissan and Daimler are sharing technologies and products these days.

Never say never about what carmakers might do in the future. But here's why you should bet against this rumor coming true: Mercedes' powerful AMG models swim in the Red Ocean. Infiniti's fledgling performance brand swims in the Blue Ocean.

Seriously.

Red is for blood, as when sharks attack and the waters turn red. Blue ocean water reassures us there are no sharks present.

This is Infiniti's strategy to launch the Infiniti Performance Line: Introduce products in market spots where fierce global competitors, like Mercedes and BMW and Audi, aren't chewing up competitors like so many great whites.

Ben Poore, head of Infiniti's North American business unit, took some heat this summer for the strategy. Some members of the horsepower-loving auto press expressed a lack of thrill over Infiniti's first IPL model, the 348-hp 3.7-liter G37.

How are you guys going to compete against AMG with that, they asked.

But Poore had a point. Why barge into the established competition's strengths, he responded? Why not go instead where the performance competition has failed to go? Infiniti, he said, will offer models that sell at a nice premium -- just under $50,000 for the G37 -- but not in the stratospheric $70,000 to $80,000 area of AMGs and Audi S models.

So, yes, of course, it would be cool to stick a 500-plus hp AMG engine into the Infiniti M. But according to Infiniti, that's the wrong ocean.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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