Infiniti will elbow its way into the crowd of German-dominated sporty premium crossovers with a coupe version of its compact crossover QX50.
The QX55, which will arrive in dealerships next summer, will let Infiniti go nose-to-nose with the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe and BMW X4. Year to date, U.S. sales of luxury crossover coupes are up about 40 percent, led by the new Audi Q8.
The QX55, expected to be powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the QX50, sports a sloping roofline inspired by the first-generation FX performance crossover.
Infiniti's newest model targets the young double-income-no-kids set, said Sam Fiorani, vice president with AutoForecast Solutions.
"It's right in the niche where a BMW 3 Series would have been a generation ago, only in crossover form," Fiorani said.
When the redesigned Infiniti QX50 compact crossover launched in the spring of 2018, executives heralded it as the brand's most important product since the original Q45 luxury sedan three decades ago. The new crossover debuted a variable-compression engine that delivered V-6-like performance with four-cylinder diesel-like fuel economy.
Infiniti expected the QX50 to become the brand's top seller in the U.S. But that hasn't panned out, mostly because of launch snafus and quality problems.
U.S. sales of the QX50 through July were down 2.3 per cent to 10,425 vehicles, putting the QX50 at the brand's No. 4 spot. Its best-selling model was the QX60 midsize crossover, at 25,695.
"We didn't do the perfect job of launching the car" with the right configurations, Christian Meunier, then-president of Infiniti, told Automotive News at the Shanghai auto show in April. "We realized that very quickly in the launch phase."
Things are better in Canada, where the vehicle is the brand’s second-best seller through July. Sales are up 65 per cent to 1,854 units. Only the QX60 is more popular with 2,459 sold.
This year, Infiniti added a QX50 trim level the company said would make the model appeal to a wider market. The QX50 lineup now includes a $44,495 (before shipping) Luxe variant with a navigation system, a feature previously available only in the pricier Essential trim.
Adding a coupe-like QX55 derivative is a low-investment way to bring new customers into the brand, said Ed Kim, analyst with AutoPacific.
"It offers a more style-driven counterpart to the QX50 that can potentially bring more conquest customers to Infiniti," Kim said. "As sales of Q50 and Q60 continue to shrink, Infiniti needs to backfill their lost volume with new and relevant products. QX50 is one step, and QX55 is yet another."
The QX55, like the QX50, will likely be assembled in Aguascalientes, Mexico, at the US$1.4 billion joint-venture plant that is owned by parent Nissan Motor Co. and Daimler.