Special Coverage

logoNew York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Nissan North America Inc.’s Infiniti luxury brand will launch sales of its all-new EX35 cross/utility vehicle later this year, an official says as the auto maker unveils the EX Concept at the 2007 New York International Auto Show here today.

Mark Igo, Infiniti vice president and general manager, says the EX small CUV, built on the same platform as the G37 coupe also shown here, will be powered by Nissan’s VQ 3.5L V-6 engine, making 290-plus hp in the EX. Intelligent all-wheel drive will be standard.

In an interview with Ward’s before the brand’s press conference, Igo says sales ranging from 20,000-30,000 units annually “makes sense” for the EX.

Entrants in the same segment include BMW AG’s X3 and American Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s Acura RDX, both of which sell in similar numbers in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the new G37 will reach the U.S. in August, with sales in overseas markets beginning shortly thereafter, Igo says.

While speculation about a possible twin-turbo G37 has been burning up the Internet in recent weeks, Igo says he “has not heard anything about that” but personally would like to see it.

At last year’s New York auto show, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. CEO Carlos Ghosn announced the upcoming GT-R performance sports coupe would be badged a Nissan, not an Infiniti as some had predicted.

Infiniti dealers were said to be upset about the lack of a high-powered sports coupe for the brand.

Igo says a flagship model doesn’t necessarily have to be a large, luxury sedan. Last year, as Ward’s first reported, Infiniti pulled its under-performing Q45 sedan from the U.S. Igo won’t say if a replacement is in the works, only noting any new model would have to “register with owners.”

More likely is an additional CUV. Igo says a large CUV, bigger than the current FX, “is a logical place we should look at for growth.”

A recent media report suggests Nissan plans to reposition some of its larger SUVs as CUVs, moving them from a truck platform to a unibody, or car, chassis.

But despite slowing sales, Igo says the QX56 still has a place in the Infiniti lineup due to towing needs of a certain segment of buyers. “At its peak, (the) QX56 was doing 1,400 (sales) a month. Now it’s doing 900,” Igo says, disputing the severity of the drop off in demand.

He says Ford Motor Co.’s repositioning the Lincoln Navigator with a lower price point has cut into QX56 sales somewhat, adding Infiniti refuses to buy market share with steep discounts.

However, Igo does anticipate an increase in incentives on the fullsize SUV previous to the May launch of the ’08 model, which boasts a new interior.