TOKYO -- Infiniti's new boss is calling for new priorities.
Less than a year into his job as president of Nissan Motor Co.'s premium marque, Johan de Nysschen is tempering expectations that Infiniti will nearly triple sales in four years.
But de Nysschen remains committed to rapid growth, so he is putting a priority on new models that can deliver quick volume. That means deferring plans for an electric vehicle.
In addition, the halo cars he plans above the current lineup will be toned down from the dramatic sports-car concepts displayed at recent auto shows. They will be more practical, not pure performance offerings, he said.
The dial back may put de Nysschen at odds with Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who recruited the mustachioed South African from Audi last summer. Ghosn assigned de Nysschen the task of cranking Infiniti's global sales to 500,000 units in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. Infiniti sold just 170,000 last year.
"I'm under absolutely no illusion -- 500,000 cars by 2017 is an inordinately ambitious challenge," de Nysschen, 53, said in an interview. "We really do have to get our heads around how we can bring the brand in that direction."
To hit that target, he's plowing new investment into starting Infiniti production in China and England and shepherding the launch of volume nameplates, such as an entry-level compact to debut in 2015.
De Nysschen also is pouring resources into at least two halo nameplates above the current flagship M sedan, which will be renamed the Q70. Offering the first public details on those plans, he said those cars will appear by 2020 and be based on the same platform.
The cars will be "high-performance luxury cars, not a sports car," he said. They also will not be variants of a flagship sedan competing in the same space as the Mercedes-Benz S class.
"It will be more Porsche Panamera-like than BMW 7 series-like," he said. "We could then quite conceivably use the same platform to create a more compact 2+2, two-door coupe that could perhaps just dial up the performance and design appeal."
The cars will be of the same ilk as the swept-back Essence concept hybrid coupe unveiled at the 2009 Geneva auto show, he said. The cars will share drivetrains but get different bodies.
What the halos won't be, he said, is a "true thoroughbred sports car" as foreshadowed by the curvy midengine Emerg-E hybrid concept that debuted in 2012 at Geneva.
Meanwhile, de Nysschen has deferred an Infiniti EV launch from the original 2014 timeline, partly because slow-selling EVs won't help him reach the half-million sales target.