Infiniti throttles up midengine plug-in
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Calling it proof of its intention to create a performance halo car for the brand, Infiniti showed audiences at the Geneva auto show today a midengine sports car built with a battery-powered electric motor and range-extending gasoline engine.
Infiniti says its two-seat Emerg-E concept can go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds and climb from 0 to 130 mph in 30 seconds. It claims 402-hp and a 30-mile range on pure battery power before switching to a three-cylinder internal combustion engine.
But the sports car represents more than a quest for speed for Infiniti, the global luxury brand of parent Nissan Motor Co.
Nissan has been touting pure battery-powered electric cars worldwide as a superior technology to so-called plug-in electrics equipped with gasoline engines, such as the Emerg-E and the Chevrolet Volt.
Infiniti is less than two years from marketing its own pure electric, a modified version of the Nissan Leaf sedan.
But the roadster body styling of the Emerg-E show car is a reminder that Infiniti is in a battle that the Nissan brand is not. Infiniti is challenging a handful of German marques known for both sports car power and bold styling -- especially Audi and BMW.
Although Infiniti has been marketing vehicles in the United States for more than 20 years, it is still attempting to crack Europe. Last year, the brand sold just 12,100 vehicles across Europe, including Russia, up from 8,200 in 2010.
Infiniti is still opening retail stores in Europe to challenge luxury competitors on their home court.
And how Infiniti performs against the Germans also is critical in the United States, where Infiniti is pitching itself against Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Infiniti's U.S. sales slipped 5 percent last year to 98,461 -- well behind BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Cadillac, Acura and Audi.
Rivals Lexus and Audi have launched halo sports cars in recent years, and Acura plans to revive the NSX supercar.
The European styling flair of the Emerg-E can be attributed partly to its origins at the Nissan Design Europe studio in London and at the automaker's European Technical Centre in the United Kingdom.
It is the first Infiniti model to be developed in Europe.
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.