Infiniti eyes bolder subbrand

De Nysschen wants 'thoroughbred, high-end performance cars'

DETROIT -- Created just three years ago as Infiniti's European-competing performance subbrand, IPL might no longer cut it for the company's bolder future product plans.

Infiniti is looking for a bona fide performance subbrand in the near future -- beyond what the IPL initiative has tried to achieve.

"What is absent from our product structure today is a line of really thoroughbred, high-end performance cars that take no prisoners," says Johan de Nysschen, Infiniti worldwide president. "I don't say that every single Infiniti car line should have such a model. But I do say that we need a high-performance subbrand."

De Nysschen: Wants stable of thoroughbreds

Michael Bartsch, who entered as vice president of Infiniti Americas in September, says the packages need to be more competitive.

"We need our own M brand or our own AMG," Bartsch told Automotive News at the auto show here, referring to BMW and Mercedes-Benz's special-package subbrands.

"IPL is there, but it's by no means a fait

accompli that it will be the nomenclature for the performance brand for Infiniti. The decision is completely open."

IPL stands for Infiniti Performance Line.

Currently, Infiniti offers a Q60 IPL model, which is the vehicle formerly badged the IPL G coupe. In its first years, the label has reflected a sportier trim package than the standard factory models and focused mostly on cosmetics and tuning upgrades.

But under de Nysschen, Infiniti is moving toward an identity that encompasses bigger engines and racetrack-worthy handling components.

De Nysschen is determined to pitch the little Japanese brand competitively against Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz -- each of which has a robust performance subbrand with high-output engines and beefier components on multiple nameplates.

De Nysschen began altering existing Infiniti product plans shortly after he arrived in 2012. The company now intends to introduce a high-performance luxury flagship above Infiniti's top-of-the-line Q70 sedan, followed by a high-performance halo car that is expected to be a sports car.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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