Chinese needs bring Infiniti a roomier sedan

The extended L version of the Q70, which will go on sale this fall, adds six inches to the wheelbase, all of it captured for rear-seat space.

NEW YORK -- Infiniti’s U.S. dealers can thank their Chinese counterparts for the new stretched-backseat version of the Q70 sedan the automaker introduced here today.

The long-wheelbase sedan, formerly marketed by Infiniti as the M, was developed to tap a beckoning Chinese market for chauffeur-driven premium cars, says Michael Bartsch, vice president for Infiniti Americas.

“It made sense to build it because of the demand in China as a limousine,” Bartsch said shortly after unveiling the car at the New York auto show. “But the nice part of that is that China gives it the critical mass it needs to become a proposition for this market.”

But not necessarily as an American chauffeur car, Bartsch says.

Infiniti intends to market it instead as a luxury sedan that simply offers a roomier back seat -- a premium sedan with the roominess of an SUV, he said.

Infiniti’s North American team looked into the potential of the limo business, but concluded that the chauffeur and livery market was simply too small to bother with -- even though limo stalwart Ford Motor Co. has ceased building the popular Lincoln Town Car.

The new version comes as part of an update for the 2015 Q70 that gives the sedan a restyled front and rear, and a complete conversion to LED front lighting for headlights, fog lamps and turn signals.

The extended L version, which will go on sale this fall, adds six inches to the wheelbase, all of it captured for rear-seat space.

"When we originally came to this, we thought that if we could get 10 percent of our Q70 sales in the long wheelbase we would be doing well. But I now think it’s probably going to jump to about 20 percent,” Bartsch said. “We’re going to price-position it very competitively.”

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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