"This is where the fish are. You want to fish where the fish are biting," Randy Parker, vice president of Infiniti Americas, told Automotive News. "This is a car that's got to perform well for us."
It's the first full redesign for the QX50 since its introduction in 2006 as the EX. Parker said he expects the QX50, which has sold in much smaller numbers than rival vehicles from Lexus, Acura and the German brands, to quickly become one of Infiniti's most popular nameplates. Dealers are eager to finally have a strong offering in such a critical segment after years of merely trying to get by with the dated outgoing architecture, he said.
"They see the volume opportunity as well as the profit opportunity," Parker said. "We really haven't been competing in that space."
Infiniti hopes the QX50's new look and larger interior will be compelling, but under the hood is where it really stands out from competitors. It's the first production vehicle in the world to employ a variable-compression, turbocharged engine, which can adjust its power and efficiency as needed to get diesel-like fuel economy but at a lower cost and with better acceleration.
The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder VC-T, built with technology that Nissan Motor Co. spent two decades developing, gives the QX50 a combined EPA rating of 27 mpg with front-wheel drive, 35 percent better than the V-6 in the outgoing version.
While the engine's technical aspects might not be important to luxury buyers, executives are confident the combination of fuel economy, power and cost will get their attention.
"A lot of people have tried to do it. A lot of manufacturers are still working on it. But we did it," said Christian Meunier, Infiniti global division vice president. "We're lucky enough to have it, and we're going to market the hell out of it, because we think it's a big opportunity."
As Infiniti seeks a more clear-cut identity among luxury brands, it sees the market's shift toward crossovers as a chance to do that, with the QX50 as Exhibit A.
Said Meunier: "It's the product that's the closest to what the brand is about."