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by Matt Campbell

The Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge is still unconfirmed for launch, but the Japanese luxury brand says it will offer a range of performance models under a new sub-brand similar to its mainstream premium rivals.

The Q50 Eau Rouge would be an ideal poster child for the brand’s performance push, boasting a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine borrowed from the Nissan GT-R. However, the brand made it clear at the New York auto show that plans were still yet to be signed off for the super sedan.

Michael Bartsch, vice president of Infiniti Americas, told CarAdvice at the New York auto show that having a performance sedan such as the Q50 Eau Rouge was imperative to the brand proving it’s serious in its quest to take on the established German luxury brands.

“We’re all very much behind it,” he said. “It’s still going through the final evaluation – nothing is done until it’s done, but there are a lot of cheerleaders for this car, I can assure you.

“If it goes [ahead] it will be a limited production car. Emotionally, everyone is behind it. Dealers want it. Johan [de Nysschen, Infiniti president] wants it. We want it. The brand needs it,” he said.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept

Rather than launch a full-scale attack on the established performance branded models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Bartsch said the brand would look at a small run only.

“I think something like this is definitely a car that you have a limited production – a clearly defined production time, a clearly defined number: because the people who are attracted to this sort of car, one way or another, will be collectors,” Bartsch said.

“In order to be able to charge a reasonable price for it to reflect the premium and the value of the car, you need to have some sort of scarcity – no question.”

Bartsch said the car will not be built alongside the regular Q50 range, which is produced in Tochigi, Japan.

“It’s a specialty project. It will be done off-line if it goes ahead. That’s all part of the business case,” he said.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept

However, Bartsch did let on that the decision is close to being made.

“This is not a long-term project – this is a short-term project, and when I say short-term, these sorts of decisions need to be made this fiscal year, I’d imagine. So this is not going to drag out very long,” he said.

Bartsch insisted that Infiniti wouldn’t give up on performance cars if the Q50 Eau Rouge doesn’t get the green light.

“I think Eau Rouge is very much the tag and the positioning for this car. I think what you can take out of it is that it’s a first toe in the water of the intention of Infiniti expanding with a performance brand within the Infiniti brand. That, I think, is a very clear message you can take from Eau Rouge.

“What I can tell you is that there’s a very clear intent to have a performance division, and it’s a very clear intent to emulate the concept of the Audi RS, or BMW M, or Mercedes AMG. So you could reasonably expect that you would have a performance variant of numerous models within the product portfolio,” he said.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept

Bartsch said the name for the Infiniti performance sub-brand was not yet defined, but it is expected to be a few letters long, at most, and he confirmed Eau Rouge won’t become a brand in its own right.

“There would be a nomenclature in the same way Mercedes has the Mercedes AMG, BMW has the BMW M. Infiniti would follow that logic,” Bartsch said. “What, ultimately, that is, is yet to be decided. We don’t know.”

While the name may not be certain, but the intent of Infiniti appears clear.

“A premium brand needs to have that sort of depth in order to be able to create the halo effects, and the anchor and credibility, the currency of your technology and your design confidence and so on.

“You have to have credibility in the performance area, the extreme performance area,” he said.




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