INFINITI QS Inspiration Concept took centre stage at the Shanghai Motorshow, with traditional art forms pointing to an interesting direction in design.

INFINITI’s journey has been long and hard. This year’s presence at the Shanghai Motorshow was meant to broadcast a message of achievement, of finally having reached a juncture where the brand could look at smooth sailing ahead. Somehow, the choice of Shanghai as a venue was doubly interesting, for the fact that it represents a market that can make or break the best laid plans of global car manufacturers.

So we were in the city of Shanghai along with the brand to learn of the paths it was treading. From a brand that began life as a luxury version of its Nissan parent, that too focussed on the US market, which at that time was the only volume market worth targeting. But unlike the success that Toyota managed with Lexus in terms of building an independent luxury brand, INFINITI didn’t quite get its act in place. Many people would remember the early 2000’s Q45 as its epitome, oozing power and some fancy headlights, but not quite pushing the luxury argument.

That is something that Shanghai as a city seems to have avoided, largely as an accident of geography. Western Shanghai could be likened to where Nissan now stands, with a wide offering, some heritage and the impression of affordability, while the newly developed Eastern side, just over the Huangpu river is a class apart with its towers, multimillion dollar apartments and a feel of being a couple of decades ahead of the folks across the bridge. And it offers an impressive skyline, made famous through so many Hollywood movies.

We were watching the towering edifices over cocktails at an INFINITI dinner before the motor show, where we met up with a clutch of interesting people from the brand, largely from the design function. Karim Habib, who is now the brand’s executive design director is someone we have interacted with in his previous stints at other car brands. The bonus was we also met up with Alfonso Albaisa, the global design head for Nissan, who spent some time highlighting the new design centre that they had just opened in one of the towers on the skyline.

The importance of the brand’s focus on China is core to the Hong Kong headquartered INFINITI. Fast forward to the actual motor show and we began to see what the intent was.

Here is a look at the highlights of the press conference:

The centre of attention was the unveil of the INFINITI Qs Inspiration Concept. In some ways it can be seen as the sedan version of the QX Inspiration concept that defined a language around future electrified SUVs. Here we could see the platform come to life as a blown out version of a sedan, with a lot of messages added in.

Christian Meunier, Chairman, INFINITI, declared “For 30 years INFINITI has built a reputation for introducing new technology that delights and gives confidence to drivers. The age of electrification presents us with an opportunity to renew our credentials as an innovative challenger brand, ready to move quickly and decisively in this growing and exciting area of the market.” But it wasn’t just the electric credentials that were in the spotlight. The Qs Inspiration also took a different path with the use of materials, fabrics and even manufacturing concepts drawn from traditional Japanese crafts like Origami.

“There is a common design thread that unifies our four most recent concepts, the Q Inspiration, Prototype 10, QX Inspiration and, now, Qs Inspiration,” explains Karim Habib, Executive Design Director. “Each serves to illustrate INFINITI aesthetics for the era of electrification.” The aesthetics Habib alludes to define their current approach and are namely engaging, enriching, enabling and enchanting – what the company calls its ‘4EN’ approach to design. 

Habib adds: “Like the QX Inspiration Concept, this concept builds on the Japanese spatial concept of ‘Ma’, focusing on the open, flowing spaces that sit between the bodywork’s sculpted lines. 

“The result is an incredibly expressive design, with flowing metalwork punctuated by highly structural, contemporary forms. This means expansive, muscular surfaces, with clear, concise lines inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.”

We were given a personal introduction to the Qs Inspiration by Habib, who extolled the form that had evolved. “These cars have a memorable visual identity,” Habib concludes; “one that we will adapt for our electrified cars in future.”

Gallery of the INFINITI Qs Inspiration:

The Wow factor of the INFINITI Qs Inspiration seems to point to a product line up that could be visually completely diverse from the Nissan roots although the obvious benefits of platform sharing of the electric skateboard underpinnings will nonetheless be there. Here is the differentiator – an ability to sculpt a luxury image for the brand, building on its successes over the years. And then there is the tantalizing portent of the choice of Qs as a moniker. unlike the all bold QX does that mean we are looking at a line-up of sports sedans with the Qs badge instead of being tagged Q50s and so on. There’s room for that approach and we think INFINITI could do with a sportier image overall.

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