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Infiniti Q30 concept aims for the global sweet spot between sedans and SUVs


If you took the trend lines in sales from the world's car buyers and project them forward several years, you'd safely assume that sedans and small SUVs will dominate from Beijing to Brooklyn. If you're a product planner at Infiniti charged with winning owners of BMWs and Audis who don't know your cars exist, you might take those trends and try to merge them into a single model, something that's taller than a sedan and sleeker than a SUV.

Which is exactly what Infiniti plans to do, as shown by the Q30 concept unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show.

The first fruit of a money-saving deal between Infiniti parent Renault-Nissan and Mercedes-Benz, the Q30 continues a string of strong Infiniti concepts dating back to the Emerg-E concept from last year. Infiniti's leaders have vowed to take the make from its second-tier status into competition with the global luxury car leaders, fueled by striking new models — a process Infiniti execs admit will take years if not a decade to accomplish.

Sharing a chassis, engines and likely a Mexico assembly plant, with the Mercedes GLA-Class, in concept form the Q30 nicely cloaks its girth in flowing sheet metal and a dramatic hatchback that diffuses the jibe of "why don't you just call it a station wagon?" The C-pillar cut-in creates what its designer calls a "crescent moon," although the tiny fixed window is the kind of detail that's often lost in the translation between auto show stage and dealership floor. Yet Infiniti maintains the concept is 95 percent of what will roll forth in 2015.d

Inside it's harder to discern the concept flourish and production-ready materials, like the seats that designer Alfonso Albaisa says were inspired by Japanese kimonos. Luxury carmakers traditionally build their credibility on bigger cars, but the world's traffic and pollution controls will make such vehicles increasingly rare from here forward. Infiniti might have the right idea if it can demonstrate a talent for creating a sense of luxury from the inside out.