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Toronto 2024: What Do Infiniti's Concepts Tell Us?

Infiniti Vision Qe concept | Photo: D.Rufiange
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Daniel Rufiange
The QX Monograph and Vision Qe concepts represent the brand's design future

•   2024 Toronto Auto Show: what do Infiniti's concepts tell us?

Toronto, ON - As if coming out of hibernation, Infiniti in recent months unveiled two concepts around the world: the QX Monograph SUV, at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last August, and the Vision Qe electric sedan, in Tokyo in November. Both models were in Toronto and were the feature attractions at the Infiniti stand.

Since last summer, everything has been said about these vehicles, including by us:

See: Infiniti Unveils the QX Monograph Concept

See: Toronto 2024: Infiniti’s Vision Qe Concept Set to Make Global Auto Show Debut

Infiniti Vision Qe concept, unveiled at the Toronto Auto Show
Infiniti Vision Qe concept, unveiled at the Toronto Auto Show | Photo: D.Rufiange

In Toronto, at Infiniti's invitation, we took a closer look at these creations and, more importantly, met Alfonso Albaisa, head of design for the Nissan/Infiniti group.

Talking to him and analyzing the essence of what he had to say gave us an insight into what these two cars represent. Other exchanges with several executives also gave us an updated picture of the company's goals as the electric shift really takes shape across the industry, despite a slight slowdown worldwide in recent months.

Infiniti Vision Qe concept
Infiniti Vision Qe concept | Photo: D.Rufiange

The context
With all due respect to Nissan's luxury brand, it has to be said that there's a certain amount of skepticism in the media and among customers when it comes to the brand and its future.

But how did we get here? Not so long ago, Infiniti was the stuff of dreams.

From its launch in 1989, when Infiniti sold 1,072 vehicles in the United States, to 2012, the division has made significant progress. There were ups and downs during this period, but overall, we saw growth, as evidenced by the following numbers: 50,000 sales for the first time in 1993, the 70,000 mark in 2003, then a peak in 2005 with a total of 207,129 transactions.

Infiniti QX Monograph concept unveiled
Infiniti QX Monograph concept unveiled | Photo: D.Rufiange

Since then, sales have remained strong. After dropping to 128,000 vehicles during the 2009 crisis, sales rebounded to more than 200,000 units over the next three years, with a record 235,788 units sold in 2012.

At the time, Infiniti had the wind in its sails with a seductive lineup: the G37 and M56 sedans, the FX45 and EX35 SUVs, in short, models that were easily recognizable and carried a strong identity.

In 2014, the company changed the nomenclature of its models, which all adopted the letters Q (QX for SUVs). In the United States, sales rose from 183,228 units in 2013 to 133,498 in 2014 (more stable in Canada). They then yo-yoed (153,000 in 2017), but were at 117,708 before the pandemic (2019), while they've been in free fall since 2020: 79,503, 58,555, and 46,616 from 2019 to 2022. A glimmer of hope in 2023 with a 40% recovery to 65,316 units, mainly due to the renewal of the QX60 in 2022.

The all-new Infiniti QX Monograph concept car
The all-new Infiniti QX Monograph concept car | Photo: D.Rufiange

And that brings us to the heart of the matter. Too many Infiniti models have been slow to get updated. The Q50 sedan has been the same since 2014. The current QX50 SUV debuted in January 2018. The QX80 we have now was designed in 2011, with a major refresh in 2017.

In such a competitive sector, it's hard to stay on top without more frequent refreshes.

The problem isn't the quality of the products, but rather the speed at which things move.

Infiniti QX Monograph grey
Infiniti QX Monograph grey | Photo: D.Rufiange

Announcements and delays
The second element that has affected public confidence? Promises that haven't materialized.

In January 2018, for example, the company announced that it would offer its first all-electric models starting in 2021. It also said that all of its new vehicles would be electrified (partially or fully) and that starting in 2025, 50 percent of its global sales would be electrified products of one kind or another.

We're still waiting for the first EV.

At the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, it unveiled the Q Inspiration concept (gasoline engine), a car with absolutely sublime lines that hinted at great things for the brand's design future.

Plans changed as the company readjusted its internal strategy. Then the pandemic upset everyone's plans.

The idea here is not to throw a stone at Infiniti, far from it, but to contextualize things so that we can understand the pros and cons.

And that brings us to the two concepts seen in Toronto, because if there's one thing the brand isn't doing, is giving up. Its plans have changed and evolved, but they're still very much there.

Infiniti QX Monograph unveiled at Toronto Auto Show
Infiniti QX Monograph unveiled at Toronto Auto Show | Photo: D.Rufiange

The QX Monograph Concept

What Infiniti needs most right now is a new model. It's coming with the new QX80, shown here as a concept, but 95% close to reality. We should see this vehicle in production by the end of this year.

And that's where it gets interesting, because the signature of the concept will be that of the brand's future models. And as you can see, the lines are very modern and clean. Will this be enough to revive the company? That remains to be seen, but it won't be with the QX80, but with a new QX50, for example, or other new products with this kind of eye-catching design.

Alfonso Albaisa was proud to show us his creation, which includes a "signature" grille that we'll see again, as well as a new three-dimensional logo to great effect. The details on this vehicle are fascinating, such as the mauve reflections that can be seen through the design of the rims, depending on where you look at them. And when it comes to modernity, the light signature is simple, with the main headlights moved lower to the bumper, while the daytime running lights are at the same level as the bonnet, representing the keys of a piano.

It will be interesting to see what will be kept (and what will be sacrificed) in the production version.

Infiniti Vision Qe concept at the Toronto Auto Show
Infiniti Vision Qe concept at the Toronto Auto Show | Photo: D.Rufiange

Vision Qe Concept

As for the Vision Qe concept, it's clear that this is a styling study that will inspire the styling of the brand's future cars. When designing this prototype, Alfonso Albaisa asked his team to use a continuous (pencil) gesture to create the profile, adding only the essential elements afterwards.

That's why this car looks like it's ready to fly.

When asked if its lines represent the kind of product, we'll see in the next decade, Alfonso Albaisa tells us: "We're not looking that far ahead, even though the car looks very futuristic. What we're incorporating into the design are elements that can be found in future models in the short term, in a horizon of three, four or five years.

Infiniti Vision Qe black
Infiniti Vision Qe black | Photo: D.Rufiange

And the designer's brain is teeming with it, as he admits to thinking about design all the time, whether it be over breakfast, during daily activities, when he goes to bed at night, and so on. A designer's mind can be compared to that of a musician, whose brain is constantly filled with notes and arrangements for their next pieces.

"The process is constant and we are inspired by everything around us, such as elements of nature, everyday life, etc.," adds the designer.

The result is a sedan with lines that don't go unnoticed. To what extent will they influence the models that follow? We'll have to be patient to find out, of course, but at least it's hopeful.

It also shows that Infiniti hasn't given up on the electric car segment. And as one executive told us about the adjustments to the company's electrification plans, when the company offers its first model, it will be at the forefront of technology and ahead of its competitors, which may not have been the case with the initial projects the company was counting on.

It's as if the postponement of these projects will prove beneficial for Infiniti. That's one way of looking at the glass as half-full.

The all-new Infiniti Vision Qe
The all-new Infiniti Vision Qe | Photo: D.Rufiange

We can only hope that Infiniti is right this time. That what they presented last year and what we saw in Toronto will translate into something concrete, into a new range that will appeal to enthusiasts.

We can sometimes be critical of one brand or another - that's our job - but ultimately we want each of them to succeed. At the end of the day, there are a lot of jobs behind all this, and the more choice the consumer has, the better off they'll be.

What's next looks interesting for Infiniti, but things have to move quickly.

Infiniti logo
Infiniti logo | Photo: D.Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Daniel Rufiange
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 75 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 250 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists