DETROIT — Infiniti will join the growing ranks of luxury brands in electrifying the bulk of its product portfolio.
Hiroto Saikawa, CEO of Infiniti parent company Nissan Motor Co., said here last week that almost all Infiniti vehicles launched in or after 2021 will be either an electric vehicle or a battery-powered range-extender model.
The one exception will be Infiniti's full-size body-on-frame SUV, the QX80.
The plan Saikawa outlined at the Automotive News World Congress represents a rapid catch-up for Infiniti.
Its global luxury competitors, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Jaguar, already have announced similarly aggressive electrification plans.
Infiniti's plan has been long in the making. Infiniti was one of the first luxury brands to propose an EV in 2012, when it unveiled the LE concept at the New York auto show. That model would have been an upgraded variation of the Nissan Leaf. But the plan was canceled as Infiniti reconsidered its global product portfolio.
Saikawa's announcement came one day after Infiniti presented its latest design concept at the Detroit auto show, the Q Inspiration. That concept sedan suggests the look of the next Infiniti Q70, due in 2019 or 2020, and designers and executives made a point of saying the concept's shape — with a smaller engine compartment — is intended to accommodate future powertrain plans.
But for now, the Q Inspiration was described as running on an internal combustion engine, Infiniti's advanced new four-cylinder variable-compression gas engine, the VC Turbo.
Infiniti executives emphasized that the VC Turbo engine is envisioned as a "bridge technology" to electrification.
Saikawa didn't address what will happen to the new VC Turbo after 2021, when all new vehicles will be electrified.
One company source said it is possible that the four-cylinder VC Turbo might power the big QX80 after that time. The QX80 currently is powered by a 5.6-liter V-8.
A company spokesman declined to comment on plans for the QX80.
The pure electric approach is one leg of Saikawa's plan. The other is a newly launched range-extender technology that Nissan is selling in Japan under the name ePower. The system relies on a lithium ion battery that runs an electric motor to turn a car's wheels. But like a plug-in hybrid, an ePower vehicle also contains a gas engine that is used only to recharge the battery.
However, it is not a plug-in powertrain.
Nissan introduced ePower in Japan in late 2016 as an alternative powertrain in its Note, a hatchback version of the subcompact Versa.