Infiniti Delays LE Electric Sedan Production Plans

By · June 03, 2013

Infiniti LE

After more than two years of teaser images and auto show debuts, Infiniti is delaying plans to bring an electric car to market. That’s according to a report today in Automotive News, which said that Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen wants to shift priorities away from the Infiniti LE electric car production plans and towards high-volume gasoline cars.

“We need to re-evaluate our assumptions,” said de Nysschen. “It would not be smart to introduce a car when perhaps 12 or 18 months down the road you have all-new battery technology.” de Nysschen also voiced concerns that electric car technology is too niche for the brand, which is working to hit sales figures of 500,000 cars a year by 2017.

De Nysschen was appointed president of Nissan’s luxury brand last year by Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Tasked with improving the brand’s market share and impact on Nissan’s balance sheet, de Nysschen isn’t afraid to make tough choices—even if that means distancing himself from Nissan’s EV strategy.

The Infiniti LE, previously due to debut in 2014, was to be Infiniti’s first electric car. Using existing Nissan LEAF technology, it was also to be the first production car fitted with wireless under-car charging technology.

Uncertain Future

de Nysschen maintains that the company never committed to making the LE—despite a section of its U.S. website devoted to the Infiniti LE Concept. The site reads, “More than just fantasy, the Infiniti LE Concept becomes reality in 2014.”

Yet, de Nysschen asserts: “There has been no formal decision yet within the company to give the project the green light and let them start with investment. In my evaluation of our business strategy, I introduced a whole bunch of additional considerations.”

Those considerations include the views of de Nysschen, who remains unconvinced about electric car technology. Using well-worn objections to EVs— concerns about limited charging infrastructure, tepid governmental support in certain markets, and the viability of battery technology—de Nysschen wants Infiniti to wait before making an electric car.

“There will be an Infiniti EV,” said de Nysschen. “The question is one of timing.”

De Nysschen’s attitude towards electric cars is at odds with that of Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan C.E.O. (and of course, de Nysschen’s boss). The Renault-Nissan alliance is the largest producer of all-electric cars in the world, but will apparently wait a while to add Infiniti to its plug-in portfolio.

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