Infiniti to change alphanumeric naming scheme to Q for all future models

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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How do you feel about Q? Does it conjure qualitative connotations, or somehow represent quantitative value? Does it ring well with 007 techies? Or possibly it causes Trekkies to invoke positive memories of the show's coolest antagonist played by John de Lancie? One thing it does for sure, Infiniti's choice to start all model designations with the letter "Q" raises a lot of Qs while its associated press release offers no specific As, other than a clear connection with the aforementioned Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise.

"Over the past few months, we have talked at length with our retailers, our customers, and our business partners about our brand," said Johan de Nysschen, President of Infiniti Motor Company Limited from their new Hong Kong headquarters. "The need for a new identity and direction to promote consumer familiarity with our model range as we expand the portfolio became evident. To achieve this, we clearly needed a simple and consistent nomenclature framework. After exhaustive research and evaluation, we concluded that 'Q' captured the inspiration within the next generation of Infiniti models, as well as emphasizing our performance credentials while harking back to our heritage with the Q45 – Infiniti's first iconic flagship product in 1989."

Reference to the original Q-ship is the most obvious tie-in, although binding Infiniti's future to a quantifiable product failure might not be the best way to guarantee ongoing success as it grows its brand into the Ukraine, China and beyond. Actually, the Chinese connection may be the most obvious reason for the Q designation, as the word "Qi" (as avid Scrabble players will note) is a word representing "the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine," or so says Google dictionary.

Just the same, Infiniti's current naming scheme is a confusing hodgepodge of haphazard alphanumerics that might make sense to longtime fans of the brand here in North America, but certainly would cause headshaking in new markets. The numeric portion of its names have always made sense, designating engine displacement, and to their marketing department's credit all alpha names at least followed the pattern of larger overall size as they traveled down the alphabet: the M, seven letters down the alphabet was larger than the G, and the new JX, four letters from FX and five from EX, is the roomiest crossover Infiniti has ever built.

Oddly, the only name that will remain is the slowest seller in the Infiniti lineup, albeit the oldest name still in use. The QX is the full-size luxury SUV whose name will form the basis of all future crossover sport utilities from the Japanese brand. Immediate models within the lineup will include QX50, QX60, QX70 and QX80, replacing EX, JX, FX and QX models currently in Infiniti's 2013 lineup, the numeric portion of the model designation replacing engine displacement with a chosen number for "representing hierarchy within the range," says Infiniti. And while ending engine displacement references as new technologies like turbochargers and performance-oriented hybrids get added to the model mix seems logical (more on this in a minute), note that hierarchy doesn't necessarily mean size and seating capability, as the pricier albeit smaller FX gets dubbed QX70 while the larger but less expensive JX uses the QX60 moniker. That's the only confusing aspect of Infiniti's new naming scheme. The letter X has always stood for all-wheel or four-wheel drive, with all SUVs using a capital "X" after a Q, starting with the original Nissan Pathfinder based QX4, and each all-wheel drive car in its lineup getting a small "x" following its alphanumeric name, such as M37x.

All Infiniti car models will follow the same strategy, albeit without the X, so therefore the G now becomes the Q50, and the M adopting the Q70 nameplate. Q60, incidentally, will be left for the current G Coupe and Convertible models, in similar fashion to how BMW is renaming all of its smaller coupes and convertibles with 2s and 4s, instead of the current 1 and 3 designations.

It seems simple, and does an effective job of improving "clarity and cohesiveness as it embarks on ambitious growth plans," or so says an associated Infiniti press release. Just the same one has to question why Infiniti didn't allow for some numeric naming gaps in between its current SUV range for additional models. After all, it might decide to make the FX, er… QX70, more of an upright SUV-like 4x4 in upcoming years, to allow an even sportier BMW X6-like model to fill a future niche, or vice versa. Why not call the current QX56 the QX90 instead of QX80 to allow for that gap, as they won't likely ever build anything larger, and if they did, who wouldn't want a QX100?

With respect to the aforementioned change in referencing engine displacement, Infiniti president Nysschen explained this in more detail in a letter written to "Infiniti owners and fans" that was released yesterday:

"Our new advanced technology engines under development will be smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient yet more powerful," said Nysschen. "And we will introduce some exhilarating performance machines in the future. I'm sure you will agree, it would be a bit odd to have a powerful, luxurious and refined V8 powered Infiniti M56, then position a new high-tech 550+ horsepower performance flagship for the Infiniti M range above it, using a potent charged induction V6, but then call it Infiniti M30, which we would be obliged to do, following our current naming logic."

Likely the most persuasive reason for choosing Q over any other letter in the alphabet is ownership rights, as explained further on in Nysschen's letter:

"Infiniti owns the naming assets of Q plus double digit, and QX plus double digit," added Nysschen. "And it is a permanent part of our heritage."

The first new model to show up wearing the new Q badge will be the 2014 replacement for the G sedan, dubbed Q50. It will be revealed next month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Who knows? Maybe someday Infiniti will debut a new full-size S-Class, 7 Series and LS competitive Q-ship. Q80 sounds good. That leaves room for a stretched ultra-luxury Q90 just above. Yes, it's all starting to make sense now.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Infiniti, Q45, QX56, G37 Coupe, EX37, G37, FX50, FX35, G37 Convertible, M35 Hybrid, M37, M37x, IPL G Coupe, IPL G Convertible, G25, G25x, M35h, JX35, Q50, Q60, Q70, QX50, QX60, QX70, QX80,

Organizations: Infiniti

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