LOS ANGELES – Michael Bartsch, vice president, INFINITI Americas, and Alfonso Albaisa, executive design director, INFINITI Motor Company, Ltd., were at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week to support the North American debut of the Q80 Inspiration Concept. Bartsch and Albaisa discussed the importance of this vehicle as a beacon of design for vehicles that are destined to appear in their dealer showrooms.
Q1: What is significant about INFINITI's Q80 Concept with regard to future direction for the brand?
Michael Bartsch, vice president, INFINITI Americas: That is one piece of stunning automotive design. That is an enormous statement about the prowess of the brand, a very powerful statement about the DNA of the brand. The design language expressed in that is something that will be drawn through all of the vehicles that we have. So you can see elements of that in the Q50 and of course in what is coming down the line in terms of what is touchable in the next 24 months.
Q2: What was the inspiration for the Q80 Concept in terms of design?
Alfonso Albaisa, executive design director, INFINITI Motor Company, Ltd.: How do we make an 80? What is the inspiration for that type of car? So we thought, silhouette. It is a big car, almost the length of QX80 actually, but it is a road car. This kind of come-hither silhouette, it is leaning back. It has a relaxed pose, but it looks like it could leap and do anything at any time.
Q3: When will consumers see some of this beauty on the showroom floor?
Bartsch: The most important thing about 2014 when we look back, and then when we look into 2015, is that history will look it as being the really foundational years of consolidating the brand and getting the fundamentals right.
Albaisa: The last two years have been quite busy. We were able to design seven or eight, nine, cars all at one time. So this is what has been happening for the last two years. The significance of Q80 is in a word, inspiration, really – in that it shows parts of cars that are coming. So in Detroit we are showing Q60, the concept. So you are going to recognize the body artistry from Q80 in Q60. Because this really is about, it's not a throw away car, or a throw away exercise. It shows the aspects. The new grill – very thick grille – much more performance; you're going to see it. The body structure, the romance – you're going to see it. The very simple rear-end, the crescent cut – you're going to see all of these aspects. So it's really a celebration of the key aspects of all the cars coming.
Q4: What's essential now to growing the INFINITI brand?
Bartsch: The recent satisfaction results that we got from J.D. Power and Associates are incredibly encouraging. It really is a green light on the approach we are taking to business. You know there are a number of pillars to be successful. One is customer relations, your customer experience. We are getting the touch points right with the IREDI program; we are getting the substance of the experience right in the dealerships, everything down to what sort of coffee we are serving.
Q5: What did the design team at INFINITI want to deliver with the Q80 Concept?
Albaisa: I am so excited that we are going to bring rarity to the road, and this has been a dream. The automobile is not just a functional object. It is not just an A-to-B kind of a thing. It is about history. It is a reflection of society. I think the dreams of people are romantic. It is a romantic notion and the automobile is a mirror of that romanticism. So I am very excited at the chance with this new portfolio to make these real rare-feeling, custom-feeling cars that will actually be available and attainable by everyone.
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