Infiniti Backs Off Rear-Drive-Only Mantra, Will Offer More Front-Wheel Drive Vehicles

By Trevor Dorchies | August 30, 2011
Not quite a decade ago, Infiniti swore off front-wheel drive cars in an effort to assert its luxury car street cred. The thinking was that a "real" luxury car isn't front-wheel drive, and that only a rear-wheel drive car can offer the kind of premium driving experience luxury car buyers want. The last front-wheel drive car it sold—a rebadged Nissan Maxima called the I35—disappeared after the 2004 model year, and ever since the company has been working strictly with rear-wheel drive based vehicles. Well, never mind all that, because in a surprising about face, Infiniti will be introducing a slew of front-wheel drive vehicles in the near future. Many are wondering why Infiniti has decided now is the time to revert back to FWD vehicles. Shiro Nakamura, global design chief for Nissan Motor Company, recently told Automotive News that attempting to separate Infiniti from Nissan was at the root of it all.
"If you look at where we were several years ago, Infiniti's design language was a little too similar to Nissan," said Nakamura to Automotive News. "That was bad for a luxury brand, and we needed to move Infiniti far away. We needed rear-wheel drive to help us differentiate between the brands." The first known model in Infiniti's stable with optional front or all-wheel-drive is the JX crossover which was recently unveiled at Pebble Beach. The next FWD vehicle believed to make its debut this year will be a small luxury hatchback, a spin-off of the Etherea concept which made its debut a short time ago too. Along with the BMW 1 series fighter hatchback Infiniti will also introduce a FWD luxury electric car that shares a platform with the Nissan Leaf. Infiniti's vice president of product planning for the Americas Larry Dominique says people only care about their cars, not what's underneath. While Dominique observes that FWD platforms help boost fuel economy many of Infiniti's customers assimilate RWD with luxury. Luckily for some, not all of Infiniti's line-up will sit on a FWD platform. "There is a performance perception with rear-wheel," said Dominique to Automotive News. "But we're comfortable that we don't need rear-wheel to deliver the performance we need. And some of our vehicles, like the G and the M cars, will remain rear-wheel." Do you think Infiniti moving to FWD platforms for most of its line-up is a good idea? What do you think about the move? Tell us about it below in the comment section. Source: Automotive News