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Infiniti goes Q-razy in model renaming shakeup

December 18, 2012

Of all the world's quality automakers, Infiniti has long qualified as the quirkiest. Launched by Nissan in 1989 to quarter the queue for luxury vehicles, Infiniti's quixotic quest often falls short of its quotas despite quick and quiet quadracycles. Infiniti's new Queequeg announced today that its quenching its quarrying for quid by renaming all its models based on one letter. Any queries which?

The new convention sees Infiniti unifying behind the letter Q — hearkening back to the original Q45 — and a two-digit number, like all the fancy home addresses. The G37 becomes the Q50; the M56 the Q70, etc., etc., while the SUV and crossover models get the additional X. The changes will roll out quickly as model year changes hit, and the two digits have nothing to do with engine sizes, but seniority; a hypothetical Q30 will just cost less than a Q90.

As we've noted before, automotive marketers prefer serving an alphabet cocktail over actual names because owners want an umbrella brand that means something, and automakers worry that a popular model will somehow overshadow the company; many Americans apparently thought the Legend was just a quality Japanese car, not an Acura. The other challenge facing Infiniti: Most Latin letters outside of Q have been claimed by other automakers around the world.

Renault-Nissan plans to turn Infiniti into a competitor with the world's best luxury automakers — poaching executive Johan de Nysschen from Audi's U.S. sales arm, spending money for a global brand headquarters in Hong Kong and even renaming the Renault-backed Red Bull Formula 1 team Infiniti Red Bull for 2013. Beyond that, Renault-Nissan has vowed to boost the Infiniti line with new models over the next several years, starting with a new Q50 sedan at the Detroit auto show next month, followed by more models above and below the current line.

The consistent knock against Infiniti by auto industry insiders has been that its cars and SUVs lack a certain luster and passion that BMW, Mercedes and Audi have been able to harness. Even Lexus and Cadillac have stepped up their styling in a bid to win luxury buyers in China and other growing markets. The next round of new models will do far more to determine Infiniti's future than the renaming of its Q-ships — a risk whose benefits may be hard to quantify.