arlier this week, Infiniti (Nissan's luxury brand) announced that it was going to change its model-naming strategy, changing from the current strategy of naming each car with a designated letter for each type of car and a number reflecting engine size (for example, the mid-size sedan is dubbed G37, with the G denoting the type and the 37 representing a 3.7-liter engine) to a strategy in which all cars will be dubbed Q and all crossovers/SUVs will be called QX, with numbers representing each car's price point/place in the model hierarchy. The new naming convention will go into effect in 2014.
We're skeptical of this new strategy—Lincoln has tried something similar with its naming scheme, putting a MK at the front of each model and then using another letter at the end. The end result is confusing—few non-car folks probably know the difference between MKZ (mid-size sedan), MKS (full-size sedan), MKX (crossover SUV), and MKT (larger crossover SUV).
Confused as to the brand's intent, we reached out to Infiniti. Spokesman Kyle Bazemore told us that the company has reasons for abandoning the previous naming convention.
"There's three reasons we chose to do this," Bazemore said. "Our product portfolio is going to expand." Bazemore said the three reasons are that some planned alphanumeric names are already taken, that the current naming system won't work with planned electric vehicles (since they don't have a gasonline engine, so they can't be measured in size the same way), and since future engines will be smaller than they are now, the company didn't want to go with smaller numbers, since that association isn't always positive in consumers' minds.
As for the use of Q, well, Bazemore says "Q is iconic for the brand." This is because the Q45 sedan was on the most well-known Infiniti nameplates during the company's younger days.
Finally, Bazemore says, it's all about simplicity for consumers. "It's based upon numeric and it's easier to know the higher number," meaning that Infiniti wants customers to associate the vehicle's place in the lineup with the model's number in the new naming scheme. As an example, the current M flagship will become the Q70, while the sporty G line will become the Q60.
Dave Sullivan, manager for product analysis at industry analysis firm AutoPacific, said that the convention is unusual, with only Volvo using a similar system (other alphanumeric systems either follow a system similar to Lincoln's or a system using the format as the one that Infiniti is moving away from). He also pointed out that like Lincoln, Acura has struggled with alphabet soup, as consumers scratch their heads over what the names actually mean.
"It's not going to be easy for consumers," Sullivan said. "It's going to be difficult to re-brand."
Infiniti's motives may make sense, and we applaud the company for having a purpose behind the letters and numbers, but we agree with Sullivan. Consumers who don't follow the industry closely might be confused, and those who buy one of the last remaining Infinitis sold under the current system will suddenly find the name of car outdated.