Infiniti working with Daimler on platform for four models

De Nysschen: "China is where our future lies ... China will eventually be the world’s largest luxury-car market."

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co.’s luxury Infiniti brand is developing a new platform with Daimler AG that will spawn four models including a crossover vehicle, the unit’s president said.

The first car using the architecture will come to market in 2017, Johan de Nysschen, the head of Infiniti, said in an interview in Detroit today.

Daimler, the owner of the Mercedes-Benz luxury-car brand, said in September that it’s looking at expanding cooperation with Japanese manufacturer Nissan and French partner Renault SA to produce parts for compact vehicles. Mercedes licenses transmissions to Infiniti under a 2012 agreement based on the cooperation framework.

“Within the cooperation, we are open for new projects as long as all partners benefit from them,” Thomas Froehlich, a spokesman at Daimler, said by phone. “We are constantly in talks with each other about many topics. Projects will be communicated as soon as they are approved by all partners.”

The Daimler-Infiniti partnership dates back several years.

Infiniti, which shifted its global headquarters to Hong Kong in 2012, will build its second North American plant in either the U.S. or Mexico to diversify production outside Japan, and will probably decide on the site this quarter, de Nysschen told journalists Monday at the Detroit auto show.

Q30 compact

The carmaker is building a plant in Sunderland, England, to produce the new compact Q30. The U.K. factory, to be completed by next year, will be the worldwide hub for the car, which will be available with gasoline and diesel engines, de Nysschen said.

Infiniti will also begin making two models at parent Nissan’s Xiangyang plant in central China. The premium brand’s sales jumped 54 percent last year to 17,108 in the country.

“China is where our future lies,” de Nysschen said. “China will eventually be the world’s largest luxury-car market.”

Infiniti models are now built in Japan and the U.S., where a Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., makes the QX60 crossover. U.S. sales of the brand, which renamed models in 2013 in a lineup revamp, fell 2.9 percent to 116,455 vehicles last year.

Chinese models

China will probably become Infiniti’s biggest market by volume by the end of this decade, de Nysschen said last week. The automaker plans to begin local production of two long-wheelbase models, the Q50 sedan and QX50 crossover, in China this year.

Automakers offer stretched versions of their models for China, where buyers prefer to be chauffeured and seek more back-seat comfort.

Nissan showed a sport sedan prototype Monday in Detroit that managers have said may be the basis for the next version of its Maxima. The carmaker also plans to introduce a restyled Titan full-size pickup truck in Detroit next year, said Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president and chief planning officer.

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