We interview Infiniti’s Jeff Pope to find out
There’s no doubt Infiniti has seen better days. The brand is struggling with sales in the North America, it recently pulled out of Europe and other key markets, and it just cancelled the QX30. It also moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to Japan but has shifted its focus to China and the U.S., where it plans to launch five new vehicles in the next three years.
At the Paris Motor Show last year, Infiniti revealed its updated Project Black S, a Q60 coupe prototype that brings its Formula 1 hybrid technology to a road car. The Project Black S delivers 563 hp from its 3.0-liter twin-turbo hybrid engine, with a 0-60 mph estimate of 4.0 seconds, according to Infiniti. The car was developed to test the waters and see how well it would fit the market. The automaker recently finished the research phase and is now analyzing the results.
Speaking with MotorTrend at the recent L.A. Auto Show, Jeff Pope, Infiniti’s group vice president of the Americas, said he sees a place for the Black S in the U.S. as a special low-volume model. With a limited number of units available, the car would deliver good performance for those who want something special. “I think there’s absolutely space, as a specialty vehicle in a small volume, that’s more of a brand recognition type of model. It’d be great to have a nameplate, being one of 400, 500 or however much volume that would be. That’s where I would see the execution of that car. It would be a statement vehicle for us,” he said.
And although performance crossovers are on the rise, Pope doesn’t see the F1 technology making it into one of Infiniti’s SUVs. At least not right now. “I would leave that to the technical people to understand where it could go in the future,” he said. “Right now, I still think what we need to understand is, you can’t just take the F1 technology and throw it into a vehicle. It doesn’t work that way. But I think if we can get down the road with this, it’ll give us insights into what future technologies we can actually use in our vehicles. I think that’s an exciting question.”
Although the Project Black S is not one of the five new cars coming in the next three years, Pope briefly touched on upcoming electrified vehicles for Infiniti, which include battery-electric and gasoline-powered extended-range electric cars. Pope wants the latter to hit 500 miles (805 km) of range thanks to a gas engine that serves solely as a generator, and given that the vehicle will not suffer any cold-weather range disruptions, he believes it will appeal to more people. “When you start getting over 400 (644 km) or close to 500 miles (805 km) of range, now you’re talking about something that consumers can get their head around because they get the performance and they get the range,” he said.
As Infiniti continues celebrating its 30th anniversary, some big challenges remain ahead. Still, Pope is excited for the future of the brand. “There’s nothing that’s going to be like what we’re going to bring to market, and that’s who we were as a brand when we launched,” he said. “That’s what I want us to be again, and that excites me. It gives me and my team a chance to be part of a story that just falls in line with Infiniti’s history; that’s exciting.” Here’s hoping Infiniti’s next 30 years are bright.