Dodge called the JX a test that, if successful, would open the door to further Infiniti production in North American and other overseas markets.
He said manufacturing in the United States, one of Infiniti's most important markets, has the added advantages of offering shorter lead time from factory to dealer floor. It also allows for faster tweaking of the car in response to customer feedback.
"The other advantage is it's dollar-based," Dodge said. "You don't have to read the exchange rate every day to see what the price is."
But Infiniti can't abandon Japan completely because its brand image is tightly interwoven with its Japanese roots, Palmer said. Currently all Infiniti products are made at the company's Tochigi plant north of Tokyo.
"Part of the myth of Infiniti is Japanese craftsmanship. You need to have something resonating around that," Palmer said.
For a new Infiniti model scheduled to be produced in Japan within two years, Nissan is targeting non-yen content of 65 percent, Palmer said. He declined to identify the model, but said sourcing will weigh heavily toward dollar- and euro- denominated regions.
Currently, the average Tochigi-built Infiniti has non-yen content of only 15 percent, he said.
There are benefits to buying parts from outside Japan, Palmer noted. "You can manufacture an engine in Europe, bring it to Japan, install it in a car and send it back," Palmer said. Nissan gets the "benefit of buying with a strong yen" while offsetting the car's European content against Europe's import duty, he said.
Dodge said Smyrna is capable of matching Tochigi in delivering Infiniti-level quality. But he said ensuring equal quality from overseas supply chains is a tougher challenge.
Said Dodge: "Somebody in this industry has got to demonstrate that you can make luxury outside of Germany and Japan successfully over time."