- The Porsche Panamera is the inspiration for the upcoming Infiniti flagship sedan, Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen told Edmunds.
- "In terms of performance, in terms of packaging, that would be closest," he said.
- Primary development work on the unnamed Infiniti flagship is underway and production is expected to begin in 2017 or 2018.
IRVINE, California — The Porsche Panamera luxury sport sedan is the inspiration for the upcoming Infiniti flagship sedan, Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen told Edmunds.
"If I had to single out one car that is probably closest conceptually to where we might find expression for our flagship car, it would probably be the Porsche Panamera," said de Nysschen, who is Infiniti's global president. "In terms of performance, in terms of packaging, that would be closest. But in terms of the overall body concept and design, I think we would like to do something far more sporty."
Infiniti's plan for a flagship sedan contrasts with the product philosophy embraced for decades by the German automakers. Namely, that bigger is better and that prestige is dictated by the largest, most expensive sedans marketed by Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
"We need a flagship," de Nysschen said during an interview at a Nissan-Infiniti event in California. "What we don't need is another car like an (Mercedes-Benz) S-Class or a (BMW) 7 Series. I think that market is saturated.
"Infiniti is going to embark on a direction where we are provocative, where we are very sensual and seductive in terms of brand character, and that will be expressed in cars as well. These kind of conservative captains of industry flagship sedans don't fit that mold very well."
Preliminary development work is underway on Infiniti's flagship sedan — which remains unnamed — and production is expected to begin in 2017 or 2018, he said.
"We have started some of the concept sketches, and we are looking already at engineering concepts, powertrains and packaging," he said "We will probably begin to put all the data together so that we can begin with the designs in the next nine months or so."
Earlier, Infiniti announced that a new 550+-horsepower sedan is in the pipeline. Infiniti says the new performance sedan will get a "potent charged induction V6."
The flagship sedan is the centerpiece of the automaker's global effort to expand the model line and reinvent the brand.
De Nysschen, the former head of Audi of America, was named the global head of Infiniti in June 2012. Last year the brand was turned into a separate subsidiary of Nissan Motor Company and its headquarters was located in Hong Kong. De Nysschen is in the process of creating his global team.
The flagship sedan's design will not be a major retreat from the design philosophy that will be evolving on Infiniti's cars in the next several years.
"In fact, to be clear, we are deliberately taking some intermediate steps with upcoming cars because you can't just make one radical departure from where you are," he said. "You've got to lead people along the way, otherwise you generate too much resistance."
De Nysschen referred to the targeted buyer as a "young-minded premium consumer." Specifically, "one who is far more emotionally engaged in his product, demands a far higher level of driving engagement, and doesn't necessarily need such a big spacious car."
As for pricing, the flagship is aimed at the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, nameplates with models exceeding $100,000.
"We will happily settle for the same price point," de Nysschen said, "delivering a level of performance, technology and driving engagement that compensates for size differential."
Edmunds says: Infiniti turns to Porsche when it comes to the template for its new flagship sedan and shuns the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series model. But will the approach resonate with the "young-minded" buyers courted by Nissan's upscale brand?