At this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Infiniti showcased their Q Inspiration Concept Series of vehicles, giving the public a glimpse of what their future lineup of cars will look like. The Q, Qs, and Qx Inspiration make up the trilogy that is the foundation for the luxury car maker’s next generation of electrified vehicles.
Infiniti is a company with a progressive spirit and innovative approach to design and technology. This year, the company celebrates their 30th anniversary, also a significant milestone because it is the point of departure for the years forward.
Infiniti, the luxury division of Japan’s Nissan, has an ethos of pioneering technologies and craftsmanship to creating luxurious cars that are high-minded and unique.
Electrification brings change and major opportunities for car design
The era of electrification is a transformative period in the history of car design. The change brings great opportunity and is a momentous occasion that allows the designers at Infiniti to play with the iconography of the brand. And, find ways to deliver exclusivity through new design on top of a pragmatic silhouette.
This is also the challenge, however, since premium cars have been defined by large and powerful engines, long hoods, and other features still predominantly present in the collective memory of buyers.
But now, these luxury standards will fall by the wayside with new electrified platforms (such as the Alliance Infiniti will use) that have e-engines the size of a watermelon – freeing up total car space and giving the designers more interior room to play with. An example being, the windshield of the Q Inspiration Concept car is about 200 millimeters forward when compared with previous petrol engine designs.
Infiniti plans to distinguish themselves from other electric luxury car makers primarily through great design
Even though Infiniti is younger when compared with some of the other auto manufacturers out there, they do have family ties that extend their lineage significantly. Take Prince Motors – an independent car company in Japan during the 1950s and 60s that made a rear wheel drive and high-performance sedan capable of taking on supercars, like the Porsche 904. Nissan later merged with Prince in 1966. Infiniti reveres this heritage as an extension of Japanese car DNA – and keeps the heart of a challenger at its core.
Electrification will be the common denominator between all car brands in the future, so the battle will probably be waged to an extent with great design.
Infiniti’s cars will exhibit even more of their Japanese DNA than before
We can expect Infiniti cars to have an even greater Japanese identity in the future. As more mechanical components start to disappear in the process of electrification, the company figures the best way to set the brand apart is by getting closer to their Japanese roots.
Infiniti’s fleet, which plans to be fully electrified by 2025 will literally weave Japanese tradition and heritage into the design and fabric of the cars – and elevate their cars to a status of fine art. The company is being intellectual and scholarly in their approach. In fact, a number of Infiniti designers have a background in the fine arts and show immense appreciation for culture and history.
The Japanese lifestyle concepts of Omotenashi and Ma
Omotenashi is Japanese hospitality where people take pride in anticipating and fulling the needs of others when possible; it’s an artful way of being intuitive to the needs of others without over doing it.
This term will be expressed in future Infiniti cars, as well that of Ma – which is the mastery of empty space. Ma is about creating a full and rewarding feeling out of an empty space. Only the essentials are added in layers. All of which, in this case, is done to mimic the cleanness and simplicity that electrification represents and offers.
What does Japanese electrification mean?
Infiniti will marry the Japanese ideas of Omontenashi and Ma with heritage design and the extra space permitted by an electrified power train with innovation and the latest in connectivity to create a unique driver-focused human machine interface (HMI). Hopefully, one with a feeling of naturalness and well-being.
Whether or not concepts like Omotenashi and Ma will resonate with the US customer base is outside of the scope of this article since we are focusing on design here. But one thing is for sure, the company is betting on a world already familiar with the quality, reputation, and reliability of the automotive brands out of Japan.
Infiniti even reworked its logo – which is supposed to look like a road going off into the horizon. Because of the smaller electric engines, designers had room to play with it and able to go with a three-dimensional shape.
The Q Inspiration Series Design
The Q, Qs, and Qx Inspiration may be geared towards slightly different segments of society, but all of them shared a pureness of design. Exteriors evoke the visual artform of Origami in a subtle and positive way with long, clean, simple, and a slightly folded look. They are elegant vehicles with bold and edgy overtones.
You’ll notice crisscrossed lines around the car: on the wheel rims, grill, front and back paneling – inspired by the folds of a traditional Japanese Kimono, when properly wrapped and tied around the body.
In fact, the Kimono design details are echoed through the construction of the Infiniti Pavilion itself at Pebble Beach, and a mesh origami structure suspended from the ceiling, designed by famed architect Kengo Kuma, looked like floating clouds. During the day, the building cast the same patterns found on the cars over the floors, walls, people’s cheeks, and the car surfaces – creating layers of texture and visual effect.
The concept cars have a wooden louvered ceiling on the roof window that cast light and shadow the same way tree branches do on a sunny day. A vase filled with cherry blossoms was placed on the center console of the Qx inspiration to reinforce the idea of spending time outdoors and in a relaxed setting. Multiple large windows give passengers fantastic visibility, but they also help blur the distinction between the inside and outside. Even the wheel rim is fashioned into five petals of a cherry blossom. At times, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright came to mind.
Carefully placed ambient lighting and lighting accents, a marbled center console, a patented stitching design on the seats turns the cabin into an ultra modern living room filled with high-end upholstered furniture.
Shu, Wabi-Sabi, and Nishi-Jin Sensing
The main red accent color of the Q concept series is Shu to highlight the company’s extreme attention to detail. Shu is inspired by traditional Japanese lacquerware, or urushi – a natural sap from the urushi tree – and must be carefully applied in a time-consuming process. The red slivers of headlight and taillight are similar in appearance to the Shu markings and placed in a strategic and balanced way.
Gold traces can be observed throughout these concepts too. Not only is the gold present to signify richness, wealth, and status, but this is another detail from traditional Japanese Art – Kintsugi, where gold is used to repair broken ceramics – this is also seen on the floor pattern of the Q concept series.
The inside of the car is lined with Nishi-Jin fabric for sensing biometric information. Designers blended traditional materials with new functional technologies to create the smart handle.
If all of this isn’t enough to convince you that Infiniti’s Pavilion was like stepping into a well-curated art gallery or art installation project, I will tell you that it was. It was one of the most interesting, well-planned, and thought-engaging pavilions at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this year.
It was also a great way to present the future of Infiniti car design – the Q, Qs, and Qx Inspiration concepts – which are actually quite beautiful and inspiring. I think when you take the time to understand the company’s culture and approach to design, you will look at the company in a new light and appreciate the vehicles they produce even more.