Special Coverage

Geneva
Auto Show

GENEVA – Amid a flurry of lights, fog and frenzied dancers, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. debuts its next-generation FX midsize cross/utility vehicle, heralding the arrival of its premium Infiniti brand to Western Europe.

The CUV unveiled here is equipped with a 390-hp DOHC 5.0L V-8 engine. However, Infiniti says an advanced V-6 engine will be offered in the U.S. and Canada when the CUV goes on sale in June, with details to come at a later date.

Infiniti sales in Western Europe begin in the fourth quarter with a lineup that, in addition to the FX, will include the G sedan and coupe, M sedan and EX small CUV.

Meanwhile, Infiniti leapfrogs ahead of its single 5-speed automatic transmission offering a 7-speed gearbox with adaptive shift control for the new FX. As with the current model, all-wheel drive will be available.

Another new FX feature is Nissan’s Lane Departure Prevention system, already available on the EX, which corrects a driver’s path should he begin to drift off the road or toward oncoming traffic.

Also new is what Infiniti says is the world’s first application of Distance Control Assist technology, which in heavy traffic conditions applies the brakes and throttle to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn admits the success of Infiniti in Western Europe will rest on a slow, deliberate build-up of the brand.

He does not agree with critics who claim a large CUV such as the FX, with a high-displacement V-8, will cause a backlash against the brand as it enters one of the most fuel-economy minded regions in the world.

“We’re not coming (to Europe) only with (the FX),” Ghosn tells Ward’s, adding the model is being offered, “because there are customers for this.

“It’s a very important car, and it’s a car which gives a lot of character to the brand. It’s a very unique design, very big engines. This is for people who want an SUV and at the same time a sports car. So it doesn’t look like any other car (offered by the) competition.”

Although Nissan has an array of fuel-efficient cars, it must continue to offer a wide range of choices for all consumers, Ghosn says.

“We can’t just say we’re not going to do this product in terms of (carbon dioxide) or fuel (efficiency) because it consumes above a certain level,” he says. “We are here to serve a certain market. We’re not going to limit our consumers. We’re going to offer them everything they want.”

Nissan officials are reticent to discuss projected sales for the FX, or the Infiniti lineup, in Europe. However, Ghosn says the CUV’s appeal will be small, with “not a very big volume.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com