MONTEREY, Calif. -- The luxury Infiniti brand, which has long boasted of its sedate Japanese roots on the drawing tables and in TV commercials, is now going "Latin," says its head designer.
It is a sea change in styling for a brand that has used images of Japanese calligraphy and samurai swords to sell its vehicles in the United States.
But what exactly "Latin" will look like in sheet metal and glass will not become clear to consumers until 2016.
"I want to capture a kind of emotional spontaneity in the design that I don't think other automakers have ever attempted," says Alfonso Albaisa, the Cuban-American designer recently named as Infiniti's global executive design director. "I want a Latin look -- which to me means romance and red-blooded sensuality.
"In the past, I think we have tried to evoke a more stately sense of being Japanese."
The new thinking coincides with the move of Infiniti's global headquarters from Japan to Hong Kong -- a relocation made in part to help separate Infiniti from its mainstream sibling brand, Nissan.
Designers often describe their cars in abstract and ephemeral language. But Albaisa's comments -- repeated in conversation by Infiniti's worldwide president, Johan de Nysschen -- indicate a new direction for the brand as it creates future products.
Under de Nysschen, Infiniti is working on several new models, including a high-end coupe that is expected to become the line's most expensive car.
Albaisa says the design changes will start to become clear in 2016 with the introduction of a new two-door model.
The new styling direction is not evident in the Q50 sedan, which went on sale this month, he says. And it will not be apparent in a new concept vehicle, the Q30, that Infiniti will unveil next month at the Frankfurt auto show.
"You will start to see the new look in a particular car that will come after those," Albaisa reveals, "in 2016."