What you cannot fully appreciate from photos of Infiniti’s gorgeous new Vision Qe concept sedan is that it’s larger than you’d guess—roughly the size of an E-Class Mercedes at the very least. And when the EV concept debuted last night to a scrum of international media just ahead of the Tokyo Mobility Show, Nissan-Infiniti’s global head of design, Alfonso Albaisa said that in some ways it harkens all the way back to the Q45 flagship sedan from the 1990s, when Infiniti was fresh on the scene. Partly, this is down to scale and presence—and partly down to the essence of pure design, he explained. While Infiniti has already announced they’ll build their EVs in Canton, Mississippi, where Nissan has manufacturing, there’s a lot we don’t know, like anything about powertrain, or timing for when this, Infiniti’s first EV (or the promised crossover version) will arrive. Still, Nissan and Infiniti have a habit of showing concepts that are much closer to reality than other carmakers dare. And even though we only had a few minutes with Albaisa amidst the excitement of the reveal, he answered the following three important questions.
The LEDs are clearly doing a lot of work with this concept. But there’s a distinction to the coloring of the “digital piano key” lattice effect on the hood and trunk that’s new, especially the gold hue these can turn to, right?
In the beginning when we started working on Qe there was a goal to work with the blue and dark body paint and the gold fleck that’s in that surface. And then we found a little bit like a normal LED signature. But we know LEDs usually are a bit cold. And so the team started playing with that warmth. But you know there was the risk that in some ways it’s mimicking an incandescent bulb. Still at the end of the day what we have is very warm. We played with just reliefs to capture the shape of the car, its rhythms. The rhythm of the front tends to be sharp. But the body has this sensuality and that will be repeated on the interior with a little bit of human shape.
You mentioned one danger, of echoing the past with an incandescent vibe to the lighting. What’s another risk with this newly fluid signature shape for Infiniti?
There’s a desire as a designer for a sense of minimalism. We do want to avoid a lot of pieces. And a lot of structure. But at the same time, we can take away too much, and then you don’t have a lot of character. And so we still wanted the sense of the fingerprint of the artists that this has. The shape is of a sculpture but it’s thin; normally on these kinds of shapes it gets heavy. Here we’re playing with the edges, the wings, so it doesn’t look heavy.
Why a sedan now—when so many buyers are going for crossovers? And especially at this sort of scale?
Well, you know, the portfolio today of our sedan is a little bit aged. So it’s natural for us in our cadence to really nail down the DNA of our sedans. And Infiniti has been known for sedans and we think it’s just a beautiful genre. We obviously believe deeply in it. That’s why we show it consciously. As a sedan brand, we’re going to have a little bias here. But we’re about to do a complete portfolio renovation and you’re going to see we’re not moving away from crossovers.