Defending the American knee

Not so long ago, I posted a shot from a Buick print ad showing a young lady busily tableting away in the back seat of an Encore, incorporating the following observations:

[T]he fact that Miss Tablet can actually cross her legs back there is reassuring, though I’m not sure how close her head is to the ceiling.

This latter point is seldom made by automakers; I can remember only once in recent years when it was blatant, and even then it was only a tweet.

Now comes this, to show you the space available in the long-wheelbase Infiniti Q70L, and once again legroom is a factor:

Rear sear of Infiniti Q70L, occupied by dreamy female

Of course, the great tragedy of my life is being unable to attract anyone like that to the front seat.

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El Q

I found this ad on the Fark Politics tab, which I suppose makes sense, inasmuch as pretty much all public policy these days calls for spending money, and many of the recipients — not to mention many of the dispensers of said cash — are decidedly challenged by actual English:

Banner ad for Infiniti Q50 in Spanish

Then again, I have to wonder what I’d been reading to be sent this particular ad in the first place.

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That’s your Q to leave

Johan de Nysschen, last heard explaining why Infiniti needed to replace all its alphanumerics with more inscrutable alphanumerics, is moving on, to an American marque whose badges already make no damn sense:

Johan de Nysschen, the executive largely credited with Audi’s rise to Tier 1 luxury brand status, has left his post at Infiniti after just two years on the job. He will assume the top job at Cadillac, after former President Bob Ferguson was moved to a new post as GM’s head of public policy… de Nysschen, who took the helm as Infiniti moved its headquarters to Hong Kong and re-organized its nomenclature (into the confusing “Q” and “QX” lines), was expected to lead a long, progressive turnaround for the brand, much as he did with the once-struggling Audi.

ATS? CTS? ELR? WTF, Cadillac?

This may not be a matter of mere letters, though:

An Automotive News story suggests that CEO Carlos Ghosn’s extremely ambitious targets may have played a part in de Nysschen’s departure.

And let’s face it, you don’t mess with the Johan.

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5WTF30

Tam’s wheels (eight of them, anyway) are in the shop, and while she’s tooling around Naptown in a perfectly reasonable, if unexciting, rented econobox, she’s telling this tale:

Last oil change rolled around and I pulled up to the Jiffy Lube (yes, I know how to change it myself, but it’s worth it to me to not have to lie down on gravel) and the whole staff of strapping young men had to stand around while they went to find the only person in the store who could operate a manual transmission, a leathery middle-aged country gal. You would be drummed out of the Subtle Fiction Writer’s Guild for including that scene in a book.

Now I’m wondering. Infiniti has had, since 2003 anyway, exactly one model with a stick shift; I’d be surprised if the local dealership sold more than a single truckload in any given year. What are the chances that any of their service personnel can drive a manual? (I’m betting that the one female on staff can, and probably none of the others.)

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Needs an eye-bleach dispenser

Nissan, perhaps due to rubbing up against corporate cousin Renault for all these years, always seems to have a weird mix of genuinely handsome and downright fugly vehicles. I drive a 14-year-old Infiniti sedan which I think is at least acceptable-looking (apart from a really dumb aftermarket spoiler), especially considering the atrocities that have been vended in this size class in recent years in the name of fuel economy/aerodynamics/designer perversity. On the other side of the divide is the Juke utelet, of which Car and Driver said: “There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does, so clearly drawn without conventional aesthetic considerations in mind.” And they liked it.

The revised Infiniti QX80, née QX56, née Nissan Patrol, may get similarly blistered in the press. At TTAC, Cameron Miquelon made no particular observation about its appearance, other than to note that the hood was “massive.” However, Michael Zak at Autoblog brought out the pejoratives:

[I]t’s hard to call this SUV anything but ugly. It’s bulbous and almost brutish, which aren’t generally words you want to have to use when talking about any kind of luxury vehicle.

Or even Lincolns.

On the basis that you should be able to make this fine judgment call on your own, here’s the new QX80, as seen at the New York auto show:

2015 Infiniti QX80

No amount of ethanol could persuade me that this thing is desirable. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.) Then again, the driver only has to look at the inside of it, except when refueling — which, given the size of this thing, he’ll be doing rather frequently.

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A finite list

Jack Baruth explains the bottom of the Infiniti car line — the truck line makes no more sense, but that can wait for another time — thusly:

The G37 is no more. Enter the Q40, which is basically last year’s stripper-model G37 with a different badge. Supposedly an entry-level compact-lux car is coming, which would be named Q30. Think of the Q30 as being the old G20, the Q40 as being the old G37, and the Q50 as being the new G37.

You already know what I think of this scheme. We can only imagine what names they threw away to arrive at this point:

  1. T42
  2. asi9
  3. EcoBurst
  4. 1WK
  5. Z71
  6. 4.9GX
  7. Aluminum Duke
  8. 10.2.4
  9. 2002ti
  10. WD-40

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A very modest recall

The details, admittedly, are a little scary:

Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain model year 2014 Infiniti Q50 vehicles equipped with Direct Adaptive Steering. The affected vehicles received a power steering software version that, should the engine compartment reach freezing temperatures, the power steering software may disable the electric steering system and also may delay the engagement of the mechanical steering backup system.

And this isn’t some electric-assist steering job like you see elsewhere: this is true drive-by-wire, with only a stream of electrons connecting the tiller and the rack. (Which is why there’s a mechanical backup, which also seems to be tetchy.)

This line provides a (small) quantity of reassurance:

Potential Number of Units Affected: 23

The local Infiniti store has at least that many units sitting on the lot, so this is evidently not what you’d call a widespread problem. Still, we’re talking software, goshdarnit, and I’m not sure I want to steer with software, now or any time soon.

(Via Autoblog.)

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There is a light that never seems to go out

An operation called CarMD compiles each year something it calls the Vehicle Health Index, which is derived from repair statistics stemming from the appearance of the dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light, known familiarly as the “Check Engine” light. Since I have reason to fear this horrid little device — I joke, or at least I claim it’s a joke, that every time I see it, it costs me $600 — I figured I’d look at their report [pdf] and see what sort of dire catastrophes have befallen my fellow Glorified Nissan owners.

For the year ending 30 September 2013, CarMD reports that the single most common cause of the MIL on an Infiniti is a bad ground wire, which costs essentially nothing for parts and about $170 for labor. This revelation is sort of disheartening. And the fourth is the failure to tighten the gas cap adequately, which, assuming the cap is okay, costs zilch, though the tech is likely to snicker.

The three remaining in the top five, I’ve had to endure in the past seven years: bad ignition coils ($290, assuming you didn’t have to replace all six), bad oxygen sensors ($360, assuming ditto), and catalytic-converter replacement, which allegedly one might have avoided with a little attention to those oxygen sensors ($1190). A check of other brands indicates that bad cats typically run over a grand, and the domestics are a hair less than the imports.

Various GM models, though, seem to run into problems that require this solution: “Remove Aftermarket Alarm System.”

As to where they get this (these?) data, CarMD says they collect it from their network of ASE-certified techs, which seems reasonable to me. In all, they say, Hyundai rules: Toyota has just as few repairs, but fixing the Toyotas costs more.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Girly in the morning

We’re a long way from getting past automotive sexism, it appears:

Yeah...so I got my wife an Infiniti G37 because she really liked it and still loves it. I ride it in sometimes not a lot but from what I tell its just a car. The acceleration is better in it is better than my brothers crap Acura TL and feels and sounds better than an Acura. But I saw this new Infiniti I liked called the JX. It's big, sits high of the ground, and has some good looks to it. I'm about tired of my pilot and it has some problems I'm not in the mood for so I think it's time to replace it. Is this a good, reliable car and are Infiniti's for guys as well?

If you ask me, this guy should:

  1. Buy the biggest, baddest, pickup truck with as many option packages as he possibly can;
  2. Drive it into the farging sea.

It’s the only way to clean up the gene pool.

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Quasi-automotive imagery

Mark Stevenson, contributing half of an Infiniti JX35 QX60 review to The Truth About Cars:

The JX seems to be able to hit that middle ground sweet spot: not terribly forgettable like the Audi Q7 but it won’t make your kids lose their government approved school lunches when you pull up to the front door at the end of the day like the Lincoln MKT. While I would be remiss to call the JX sexy, it definitely has the right curves in the proper places, like an over-sexed female biology teacher with a strict workout regimen and a winky eye. You know it is wrong to like her, but you still do, even 15 years after she taught you the reproductive rituals of chimpanzees.

For the record, I took my high-school biology classes from a nun — a Sister of Saints Cyril and Methodius, if I remember correctly. She looked like she might have worked out, to the extent that you could tell, but you may be assured that her eye wasn’t the least bit winky.

The other half of this review, incidentally, contains this remark by Matthew Guy: “I think it looks like a Murano with breasts, and well developed co-ed ones at that.” I guess a two-person review is easier when both persons are single-minded.

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That’s Jack’s Q

I have been properly agnostic about Infiniti’s switch to an all-Q lineup, and decidedly skeptical about the Official Explanation. What I was waiting for, evidently, was Jack Baruth’s response:

Because it is part of my job to know, I will eventually put away my disgust long enough to internalize the ridiculous new naming convention employed by the not-really-autonomous luxury arm of Nissan. What I know offhand is this: the G37 successor will be called the Q50. This arrant stupidity is roughly equivalent to Rolls-Royce introducing a new small car and calling it the Phantom Eight. Or calling the new Acura ILX the Legend Plus Five. Or calling the swoopy 2014 Lexus IS the Lexus LS510hL. I could go on, and I encourage you to do so when you are wasting time with your work buddies at lunch (“Hey! I’ve got one! The new Mercedes CLA coulda been the S650!”) but you get the idea. The just-unveiled Infiniti Q-ship system has the previously unknown-to-science ability to make the utter marketing dolts at Lincoln and Cadillac look like geniuses just for not calling the MKZ and ATS the Continental Mark XIV and Fleetwood Talisman Brougham Eldorado, respectively.

And counter-threaded pot-metal dolts at that.

But what’s worse than a whole line of Q? A whole line of QX:

[T]he trucks all take a nomenclature cue from the QX56, a vehicle so unspeakably crass it depresses the space-time curve around it for kilometers and causes cordovan Alden penny loafers to spontaneously evolve into Chinese-sewn Kenneth Cole white-trash square-toe monstrosities as all notions of human decency are shattered beyond hope or recognition in its lumbering, cetacean wake.

All this and they still don’t have a proper follow-on product for the original Q45. I’m aware that 85 percent or so of automotive marketing consists of ripping off the competition; what I can’t fathom is why Nissan thinks the competition is Lincoln, which still doesn’t have a proper follow-on product for either the Continental or the Town Car.

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Q, and some A

Apparently the reaction to Infiniti’s spading over its current nomenclature in favor of a whole line of Q-ships was sufficiently negative to prompt Johan de Nysschen his own bad self to issue an explanation, which went like this:

1. We are embarking on a massive product offensive, and these new cars need names. There are no suitable combinations of Alphanumeric naming options remaining which are not already trademarked by another automaker. In order to expand our line up with the fascinating new models we are developing, we must create a more flexible nomenclature philosophy.

Not flexible enough to eschew alphanumerics entirely, though. Remember the Acura Legend? Or the Integra? Now, do you remember any Acuras since then?

2. Our new advanced technology engines under development will be smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient yet more powerful. And we will introduce some exhilarating performance machines in the future. I’m sure you will agree, it would be a bit odd to have a powerful, luxurious and refined V8 powered Infiniti M56, then position a new high-tech 550+ horsepower performance flagship for the Infiniti M range above it, using a potent charged induction V6, but then call it Infiniti M30, which we would be obliged to do, following our current naming logic.

The M isn’t the flagship. (If it were, it would be something like Q90, a step ahead of the dreadnaught QX80 — previously QX56 — SUV.) This is where the Q should be. I will be generous and not mention the second-generation Q45, which actually had a 4.1-liter engine.

3. Infiniti is becoming a global brand now, we are already active in almost 50 countries, the majority only very recently. Our new customers are unfamiliar with the brand and struggle to understand our range hierarchy. Is a JX above or below an FX? Where does an EX fit? What is the relationship between G and Infiniti M? Research confirms the majority of newcomers to our brand consider the naming to be somewhat arbitrary and confusing.

M, then G; QX, JX, FX, EX. Reverse alphabetical order. Of course, the JX, being a thinly-disguised Nissan Pathfinder, is way out of position, but it doesn’t even fit the brand, let alone the hierarchy. (Lowest power of any Infiniti, and a CVT besides? Shoulda been the DX. This had to be Carlos Ghosn’s idea: only someone comfortable with ripping the roof off a Murano fercrissake could possibly imagine such a thing.) And please note: two actual cars, four SUV-like things. What’s wrong with this picture?

4. Infiniti owns the naming assets of Q plus double digit, and QX plus double digit. And it is a permanent part of our heritage.

So you stretch it over the entire line? This isn’t as insane as Lincoln’s MK[whatever] branding strategery, but it’s close.

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A line full of Q

The letter Q has traditionally — if a make existing for only twenty-odd years can be said to have any tradition — denoted the top-of-the-line Infiniti. As of model year 2014, though, every Infiniti will be a Q:

The premium automotive brand will see its model range simply prefixed either by Q — for sedans, coupes and convertibles, or QX, for crossover and SUV models. Each model will be further identified by a double digit representing hierarchy within the range.

Possible explanations for this inexplicable act:

  • Tired of being hassled by BMW over the M.
  • Too easy to tell the engine size with the current system. (The G37, for instance, has a 3.7-liter engine.)
  • Cheaper than developing a proper Q-level flagship.

I30 badgeThen again, the I30/I35 badge featured a cursive, if not exactly curlicued, letter I. So I’m thinking that once those new Q’s start hitting the streets next fall, maybe I should start telling people I have a Q30. It would clearly be the bottom of the line — the replacement for the G sedan, Infiniti’s volume model, will be designated Q50 — but hey, if BMW can sell a 1-series, I should be able to get away with this.

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Irritated avian detected

The Truth About Cars is discussing “Infiniti’s often discussed premium compact model,” illustrated with this shot of the marque’s Etherea concept.

Infiniti Etherea concept

Is this, or is this not, one of the Angry Birds?

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Could have fueled me

Whatever happened to sticking an actual stick down the fuel filler?

Infiniti’s new luxury three-row crossover is being recalled due to a problem with a fuel line that can block the fuel level float that could yield an incorrect reading on the fuel gauge. With the gauge stuck at the same level, JX owners could run out of gas thinking they have more fuel than they do.

I don’t have a JX and don’t need three rows, but the fuel gauge in my old I30 gives a poor approximation at best: the descent of the needle is nonexistent for the first 40 miles or so after filling up, followed by a spectacular plunge to just below the ½ mark, after which things slow up again until just above ¼, and then back to Plummet City, followed by the dreaded orange light, which I got to see in living color halfway between Carlsbad and El Paso.

And allow me to point out that the JX seats seven and weighs 2.3 tons before any of those seven climb aboard. The tank holds a mere 19.5 gallons; if you’ve gone 400 miles and you’re looking at a needle still at the halfway point, your reality check is about to be cashed.

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Executive rotation

Last time we heard from Audi North America boss Johan de Nysschen, he was telling everyone that the Chevrolet Volt was “a car for idiots.”

Friday he abruptly quit his job at Audi, and now we know why: Carlos Ghosn has lured him to Hong Kong to take over worldwide operations at Infiniti.

I’m not sure what I think about this. Audi has been one of the most focused of automakers in recent years, though de Nysschen, stationed at the US outpost, presumably didn’t have a whole lot to do with that. (Peter Schreyer, Audi’s esteemed designer, did; he has since decamped for Kia.) I’m guessing that de Nysschen, who does deserve credit for nursing Audi sales back to health after the unintended-acceleration debacle of the middle 1980s, will be expected to come up with big numbers for Infiniti, which has been trailing Audi — and worse, Acura — in the US market.

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Fine future fours

Sometimes it’s the little throwaway paragraphs that tell you the most. TTAC pounced on this one:

Renault-Nissan announced today in Detroit that its Decherd, Tenn., plant will build Mercedes-Benz 4-cylinder engines for Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz starting in 2014.

I’m not quite sure which is the more startling news: that Daimler is outsourcing engine production to the States — yes, they build Benzes in America, but we’re talking mostly the M-Class, which hardly seems suited to a four-banger — or that Infiniti, which hasn’t had a four in a car since the demise of the G20 a decade ago, has decided that they need one.

Deep speculation: Mercedes, for CAFE reasons, may want to bring the B-Class to the States for the first time. The current B-Class is offered with an optional CVT; your current go-to guys for CVT-related technology are Nissan and Audi, and Daimler would rather suck smart cars through a straw than buy anything from the VW Group. So when this new four comes out of Decherd, the engines bound for Benzland will be fitted with the appropriate hardware for a CVT, which might even be one of Nissan Jatco’s.

As for Infiniti, they presumably don’t need a four in the G: they’ve already conjured up an entry-level G25 with a small V6. The question then becomes “What would BMW do?” The Bavarians have already shown the way: they’ve brought out a 1-series just below the 3, and are reported to be working on a small FWD car. Besides the Mini, I mean. Since the Nissan Bluebird/Sylphy is about due for a rework … but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here.

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Chiming in

The day I arrived on the dealer’s lot to test-drive Gwendolyn for the first time, she wouldn’t start: battery deader than Nehru suits. (A condition I subsequently attached to the purchase contract: new battery.) As it happens, whichever lot lizard had exited it last had left the lights on; the car presumably emitted a couple of feeble beeps, which evidently went ignored.

But that’s Infiniti, which circa 2000 was anxious to impress you with its subtlety. BMW, at least once upon a time, did things differently:

[S]hould you commit the grievous error of removing the key from the ignition while the lights are on, rather than a warning beep or chime, the car lets out a noise used in science fiction movies to signal a warp core breach. It would probably cause a U.S. Navy veteran to look around for the button to SCRAM the reactor. It triggers, even after a decade, the same reflexive spinal-level twitch you’d get from the sound of a running Husqvarna being lobbed into a playpen.

Which is, if you ask me, something else Nissan’s BMW-wannabe division should adopt from der Vaterland.

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Customer servile

Please allow me to quote myself:

Communications from Infiniti to yours truly have always been somewhat obsequious, the presumption being that an owner of one of these glorified Nissans somehow expects this sort of thing, or at least will respond to the corporate up-suck.

Especially, you know, after a two-page service invoice, which says up in the corner:

note: Infiniti may call and/or send you a C.S.I. survey. If for any reason you can not answer ***Excellent*** on the phone survey or the written survey please contact us!!

LeeAnn, of course, is onto this sort of scheme:

[T]he main thing is, and I learned this from a few In The Know people, unless you give the superlative answer to all questions, it doesn’t count. It goes all null and void and you might as well have accused them of sleeping with livestock or being politicians.

And indeed I have gotten better-than-decent service from this dealer, five years running, but I really dislike the idea that I’m contributing to some form of grade inflation. I’ve already blown off the phone survey; let’s see if they send me a letter.

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Unspecial FX

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz drive-American debacle generated all manner of tweetage, and a quip from the Instant Man:

Even worse, it’s a Japanese car that, though it’s built in America, is built in a right-to-work state!

This is a slight misquote of Moe Lane, who actually said this:

Seriously, Debbie? If you’re going to fulminate about Republican Presidential candidates driving foreign cars, don’t own a Nissan, OK? Particularly since the only places where they’re made in the USA are in right-to-work states.

Lane is quite correct here. Schultz’s Infiniti FX35 sport-utility, however, was assembled in Nissan’s Tochigi plant; the only Infiniti ever built in the US was the first-generation QX56, which was spun off Nissan’s Armada and built alongside it in Canton, Mississippi. (The current QX56 is a vaguely-Americanized Nissan Patrol, built in Kyushu.) Some lower-end Nissans are actually assembled in Mexico.

I’ve actually owned Japanese cars made in the US — by UAW members, yet! — but creatures of that ancestry are few and far between.

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