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Infiniti to launch first electric car, to be made in China


BEIJING — The first electric car for Nissan's premium brand Infiniti will be a sporty sedan produced in China, the Japanese carmaker said in a statement viewed by Reuters ahead of a public announcement expected as soon as Wednesday.

The vehicle would hit the market in around three years, and consumers would get a taste when the company unveils a concept car, dubbed the Qs Inspiration electric sedan, at the Shanghai auto show later this week, Nissan officials said.

"China has the most growth potential for electric vehicles globally, especially in the premium segment," Infiniti Chairman Christian Meunier said in the statement seen by Reuters.

Automakers operating in China have to sell more so-called new-energy vehicles, either battery electric cars or plug-in electric hybrids, to comply with official production quotas designed to reduce smog.

It was not immediately clear whether Infiniti planned to produce its first electric vehicle in other markets. An Infiniti spokesman said, however, the brand did not intend to export the e-sedan from China.

The planned e-sedan is part of Infiniti's longer-term strategy to significantly electrify its product lineup.

Brand officials have said that from 2021 every Infiniti model launched will be either an all-electric car or so-called "e-Power" hybrids, underlining Nissan's previously announced plan to make Infiniti primarily an electrified offering.

The sedan likely would be built on a new flexible architecture developed specifically to accommodate electrified powertrains, Infiniti said in the statement.

Its design, especially the interior, would be significantly different than current models, design chief Karim Habib said. EVs do not have bulky gasoline engines and transmissions, opening up space inside the car.

"It will have a flat floor, and if you are a passenger you can cross your legs or stretch out your legs," Habib told Reuters.

Competition in China's rapidly emerging electric car market is heating up amid an onslaught of models from startups such as Nio and WM Motor, as well as those from established automakers.

In the luxury segment, Infiniti will be competing with Tesla Model S and Model X, as well as other models due to be launched in coming months by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.