During its annual company information dump in California this year, Nissan let us in on a lot of things. But between the previews of upcoming Infiniti concepts and how Nissan plans to take over the commercial-vehicle world, came a very bold statement. It was moving full-steam-ahead on its goal to offer 'several' autonomous (i.e. self-driving) vehicles by the end of the decade.
"Nissan Motor Company's willingness to question conventional thinking and to drive progress – is what sets us apart," said CEO Carlos Ghosn. "In 2007 I pledged that – by 2010 – Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric vehicle in history. Now I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it."
Several of the aforementioned Leaf EVs have been outfitted with technology that's already present in various Nissan/Infiniti products, namely the Around-View cameras and laser scanners. The data taken from those systems flow into the prototype 'brain' where the calculations are made on how the vehicle should be doing. Finally, the brain then commands several actuators - namely steering, braking and throttle - to actually move the car.
Nissan's already broken ground on a real-world test facility in Japan that'll be constructed using real-world materials, and the company hopes to have the self-driving Leafs and other future products on-site in a year or so.
Nissan isn't alone is developing cars that'll chauffeur their owners around; Google has famously gotten its fleet of hybrid Toyotas and Lexii legal to drive in several states, while Audi recently sent a driverless TT up the course for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado. The question is which company will hit the ground running first since the early-winner will reap plenty of benefits.
Would you buy a car that could potentially drive itself? I probably would, if only for some added security during road trips where falling asleep at the wheel is just as threatening as driving impaired.
By John LeBlanc for MSN Autos Canada
Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand has released a designer’s sketch of its new Q30 concept before its world premiere at next month’s Frankfurt auto show; a teaser to an all-new production car that will go toe-to-toe with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the burgeoning “premium compact” class.
It’s been five years since a new automobile plant opened in Canada. And the news this week that Nissan’s North American production expansion plans do not include our country makes us wonder: Will we ever see a new car plant be built in Canada again?
Since the Great Recession of 2008, global automakers have been shying away from Canada when it comes to so-called “greenfield” manufacturing commitments. Honda's new engine plant in Alliston, Ontario and Toyota's RAV4 assembly plant in Woodstock, Ontario in 2008 are the most recent, while Toyota has announced that it will add a new assembly line to its existing Cambridge, Ontario facility to start building Lexus RX 450 gas-electric hybrid crossovers next year. But the idea of an automaker building an all-new automaking facility in Canada seems as ancient an idea as the 1960s’ Auto Pact.
Bing: What is the Auto Pact?
For example, take Nissan’s North American expansion plans. The Japanese automaker currently builds vehicles in the U.S. and Mexico. But as part of a global effort to expand its Infiniti luxury brand, and in addition to producing the Infiniti JX crossover alongside its Nissan Pathfinder platform-mate in a Nissan pant in Tennessee, Nissan says it is considering adding a second production site in North America. But even after federal Industry Minister Christian Parades traveled to Japan to try and persuade Nissan to built the new Infiniti plant in Canada, Nissan Americas Chairman Colin Dodge told Automotive News that Canada is not on the list.
Now, Nissan hasn’t disclosed why its removed Canada from the list. In the past, the high cost of Canadian auto worker salaries and benefits (relative to some of their American and Mexican counterparts) and the lack of taxpayer-funded incentives to entice automakers here, have been cited as the two main reasons why a new auto plant in Canada is simply not going to happen any time soon.
A good example of what Canada is competing against comes from an announcement this week from Toyota. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has approved a $146.5 million U.S. tax incentive package to lure Toyota into expanding its Georgetown, Kentucky factory to start building its Lexus ES sedan there. Since it opened in 1988, the Kentucky pant has been the main production site for Toyota Camry sedans. With Toyota kicking in $531.2 million, the plant expansion could add up to 750 jobs on top of the 6,600 current workers.
Compared to the Kentucky, Toyota’s recent arrangement with the federal and Ontario governments for the new RX 450 hybrid expansion looks less attractive. Instead of outright tax breaks, Toyota is receiving $34 million Cdn. in “repayable contributions” after investing $125 million of its own money.
So what do you think? Do you feel Canadian governments should use taxpayer money to offer more subsidies to automakers to lure them to Canada? Should the autoworkers take lower salaries? Or are these sacrifices too high for the benefits of more manufacturing jobs?
Source: Automotive News
By John LeBlanc for MSN Autos
Among the annual “big” international auto shows, stereotypically, the Los Angeles gig is about “green” cars, the Detroit circus is about “power”, the Geneva salon is about “exotics” and the New York event focuses on “traditional American luxury.” And while both Cadillac (with its new 2014 CTS) and Buick (with its refreshed Regal and LaCrosse) will be showing off new versions of their traditional American luxury sedans, the relatively fresh genre of crossovers will dominate the debuts during this week's Big Apple media days.
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Less than a year after introducing its seven-seat JX35 crossover to the world, Infiniti has already announced it's building a hybridized version that'll debut at the New York Auto Show in late March.
Now, before we get too far along, the vehicle will no longer be known as JX; according to Infiniti's Q-heavy naming scheme, the JX35 will now be the QX60. (The other Infiniti SUVs are: EX37 = QX50, FX = QX 70, QX56 = QX80.) So the QX60 hybrid will join the current M Hybrid (soon to be known as the Q70 Hybrid) and the upcoming G Sedan replacement, the Q50 Hybrid, in electrifying Infiniti's refreshed lineup.
The QX60 Hybrid uses a rather unique 2.5-litre supercharged engine (although we're not sure of cylinder count since the company has access to both), paired with a 15 kW electric motor. Total system power is quoted as around 250 horsepower, not far off the 265 horses found in the regular JX35/QX60. It uses a CVT and we'd guess has all-wheel drive, and Infiniti claims the usual "six-cylinder power with four-cylinder fuel economy." The lithium-ion battery is packaged under the trunk, so leaves access to the third row unchanged.
Infiniti figures the Hybrid will cost around $3,000 US more than the gasoline version. In Canadian terms, the regular JX35/QX60 runs just under $45,000, so you can do the math...
I spent about a week with the 'old' JX35 and found it to be really comfortable, spacious and luxurious. There were a few moments when it seemed like the CVT had become possessed - lots of rev-flaring with only steady throttle at while cruising, and a couple other instances. I'd hope those are simply bugs that'll get ironed out with future software updates.
By Lindsay Chappell, AutoWeek
Infiniti will expand the powertrain options on its highest volume sedan to include a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a clean diesel for Europe.
There will also be an all-wheel-drive option for the Q50 Hybrid, according to Ben Poore, head of Infiniti for the Americas.
The luxury brand revealed the plans while introducing the Q50 at the Detroit auto show. Q50 is the name for Infiniti's next-generation G37, the V6-powered sedan that represents half of the brand's U.S. sales volume.
Johan de Nysschen, president of Infiniti worldwide, said the options will be available in two years. The Q50 goes on sale this summer using the outgoing G's 3.7-liter engine.
By John LeBlanc for MSN Autos Canada
We’re less than one week away before the annual circus (a.k.a. "media days") comes to Detroit. And already we have a pretty good idea of what vehicles will and won’t be revealed. Some automakers may have a few surprises still hidden up their respective sleeves, but what 2013 Detroit show production or concept debuts that have already been officially — and unofficially — leaked or previewed are you most looking forward to checking out here at MSN Autos Canada next week?
By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
Confused about the alphanumeric names that more and more luxury car makers are adopting? Join the club. The seemingly random combination of letters and numbers more often appears chosen by pure chance rather than by logic. As of today, we can officially add another one to the pile: Infiniti.
What's that, you ask? Infiniti already uses an alphanumeric system? Why yes, it does. The letters denote the model line, the numbers afterward mean displacement. If there's a big 'X' between the two, that means it's an SUV or crossover. Although somewhat confusingly, if there's a small 'x' after the number on a car, that means it has all-wheel drive. So a G37 is the smallest sedan with a 3.7-litre V6 while the FX50 is a larger crossover with a 5.0-litre V8. Reasonably simple.
However, Infiniti has just announced that it is blowing up 30 years worth of convention to 'simplify' its lineup.
“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. "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.”
So here's how it'll work. Car names will start with Q; crossovers and SUVs with QX. The number afterwards reflects on its position in the lineup relative to other Infinitis and not displacement.
The current M line becomes Q70, the current G Coupe becomes Q60, and the upcoming G Sedan replacement will be the Q50.
The vulgar QX56 is now the QX80, the current FX is now the QX70, the brand-new JX35 becomes QX60, while the EX37 gets QX50.
Perhaps the most egregious is the new JX, which is excellent and has gotten plenty of news and word-of-mouth already and now all of that momentum is wiped out. The only similarly bonehead move that comes to mind is when Lincoln quickly renamed its original Fusion-based Zephyr to MKZ after only a year or two. Although, Lincoln's MK-Everything naming scheme is similarly flawed and most of us in the 'biz' get them all confused...
So what do you think about Infiniti's big changes? Smart? Not so much? Even more confused? Let us know in the comments!