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2011 Infiniti M Credit: Nissan
2011 Infiniti M Credit: Nissan

Driving It Home

Faster, sexier... and greener? Add to ...

Even as Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn was telling reporters in Detroit this week that his company has almost 20,000 orders for the LEAF EV (electric vehicle) - 13,000 in the United States and 6,000 more in Japan - reports emerged that Nissan's luxury brand, Infiniti, is poised to get racy with a high-performance sub-brand.

According to www.just-auto.com, Nissan North America Inc. has filed for trademark protection for the names "IPL" and "Infiniti Performance Line." The documents are with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The report says the IPL trademark would cover the brand's use of "high-performance motor vehicle parts," including turbochargers and superchargers for engines, cat-back exhaust and muffler systems, shifter knobs, suspension parts, brakes, sports seats and off-road headlights.

So it seems Infiniti wants to boost its image by launching hot-shoe models to compete against the likes of Mercedes-Benz's AMG and BMW's M.

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2011 Infiniti M
Credit: Nissan
As Infiniti launches its new flagship, the mid-size luxury car market in Canada has never been more competitive

Nissan isn't commenting. But Automotive News says Nissan has confirmed interest in using high-output, small-displacement turbocharged engines for Infiniti. That makes sense.

A racy version of the Buick Regal is going that route, Ford is using that sort of technology (called EcoBoost) to juice its Lincoln luxury brand and Germany's high-end auto makers, such as Audi, have been using turbocharging and direct fuel injection for years.

And let's face it: Infiniti could use a bit of jazzing-up. The brand's rivals generally have broader lineups, complete with faster, sexier versions of more mainstream models. Good move for Infiniti.

But it does highlight the odd state of affairs in the auto industry in general. That is, car makers remain wedded to the proven notion that power and sex appeal sell. That's true.

At the same time, the industry is compelled to develop "green" technologies that will allow car companies to meet strict fleet-wide fuel economy standards by 2016. So, on the one hand, high performance development is at work, while on the other, the industry is pushing ahead with electric cars, hybrids and the like.

Which brings us to the LEAF. Nissan is pretty bullish about potential sales of its EV. The car goes to dealerships in the U.S. this December, and late next year the LEAF comes to Canada. Nissan believes EV sales will account for 10 per cent of global car sales by 2020, though rival car makers and various experts and observers think EV sales will account for just two to five per cent of total sales by then.

With the industry taking on a split personality as it pursues two completely different product strategies - fast and green -- the costs are adding up. Ghosn and Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne are among those who believe that car companies must get huge just to survive.

To that end, Ghosn's Nissan-Renault Alliance has recently struck a joint venture deal with Germany's Daimler, Toyota announced this week a joint venture with tiny EV maker Tesla Motors (10 per cent owned by Daimler, by the way) and Chrysler, of course, is dependent on its tie-up with Fiat for a future of any sort at all.

Ghosn and Marchionne both believe the auto industry will keep consolidating. Look for more alliances and joint ventures between car companies and their suppliers.

"Every car manufacturer has to develop very different technologies" for electric, hybrid, gasoline and diesel cars, Ghosn told Automotive News. "These technologies are so expensive no manufacturer can afford to develop each of these technologies," he said, adding, "You can't be a niche brand. You have to be present in the upper segment and the lower segment, and the crossover segment and the four-by-four segment."

And the high performance segment, if you're Infiniti.

Related contentLatest luxury class contenders

2011 Infiniti M
Credit: Nissan
As Infiniti launches its new flagship, the mid-size luxury car market in Canada has never been more competitive

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