MM Retro Write-Up: 1990-2006 Infiniti Q45

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MM Retro Write-Up: 1990-2006 Infiniti Q45

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FIRST GENERATION

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SECOND GENERATION

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THIRD GENERATION

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IN A NUTSHELL: Never really caught on with the American public, despite several different attempts by Infiniti to market it in various ways.

It was not only Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura that generally built their best products in the 1990s, but also Nissan/Infiniti and some other Japanese automakers. Unfortunately, the Infiniti flagship Q45 sedan did not share in the prosperity of the rest of the Infiniti line in the 1990s, and clearly played second-fiddle to its main rival, the Lexus LS400.

Although Honda’s upmarket/premium Acura division had been launched in the U.S. by the mid-1980s (and, for a while, was quite successful), Toyota and Nissan were not ready to introduce their premium Lexus and Infiniti divisions until 1990. Until then, if one wanted truly upmarket and premium vehicles in the American market, he or she pretty much had to stick to either the premium American or European nameplates The Japanese, despite selling upmarket vehicles in their home market, with the exception of the Acura Legend, had yet not expanded into the U.S. with those products.

That changed in 1990, with the Introduction of the Lexus and Infiniti nameplates. Suddenly, Mercedes and BMW (more so than Audi, which would find its greatest success later), found themselves confronted with two large competing upmarket Japanese luxury sedans, the Lexus LS400 and Infiniti Q45, that not only significantly undercut them in price (starting around 35K), but also promised better reliability and a higher level of customer service. The customer-service factor was also significant because Mercedes and BMW dealerships had by then developed a reputation for being overpriced, snobbish, and sometimes arrogant. Mercedes products back then, and to a lesser extent those from BMW, were built like tanks, were rock-solid in their construction, and Mercedes, along with Volvo had an enviable reputation for safety, while BMW, with good reason, was known as the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. Suddenly, they no longer had this imported luxury-sedan market all to themselves…they had to accept the reality of new-found competition from the Japanese. Mercedes, in particular, was forced to start cost-cutting in response……and, throughout the decade, their vehicles lost some of that former tank-like engineering/construction and materials, customer complaints arose, reliability declined.

In contrast, Lexus and its large luxury LS400 sedan were clearly a home run. The LS400, superbly engineered and built, was an American-market version of the Japanese market Toyota Celsior, and was a nearly perfect vehicle mechanically except for perhaps somewhat undersized brake rotors that weren’t quite up to the vehicle’s weight, and tended to warp from heat buildup. Infiniti’s large Q45 sedan, at least in its first-generation version, was also an extremely high-quality product, built every bit as well as the LS400 (if not better in some areas), but, unlike the LS, suffered from lack of customer acceptance. This was due to some missteps and misjudgments by the Infiniti marketers.

Unlike the LS400, which had clearly been comfort-oriented in the traditional luxury-sedan mold, Infiniti designed the Q45 (and the large Nissan Cima sedan, which served as the Q45’s base) as essentially Luxury/Sport sedans, with more power than the LS, a somewhat firmer suspension that didn’t glide over bumps as softly as the LS, a lack of wood-tone trim inside, and rather odd styling in front..particularly with the lack of a traditional grille. The LS400, in contrast, was every bit a luxury sedan inside and out. And both Lexus and Infiniti, at the time, set new records for the level of customer service…..equalled in that stellar customer-service only by the also-new Saturn division from GM, which was selling much smaller and cheaper compact cars.

But, unfortunately, while the LS400 quickly developed an image as the place to be if you wanted a superb luxury sedan at a moderate price, attracting customers in droves, the Q45, in contrast, sold relatively few copies. Despite an extremely high level of quality, taken from the Nissan Cima as the LS was taken from the Toyota Celsior, customers were simply not drawn to it in anywhere near the LS400 numbers. The Q45’s more-sporting character wasn’t what many buyers of a large sedan in this class wanted, and the odd-looking front end took some getting used to….the Cima had used a regular grille, but the Q45 simply had a blank space where the Cima’s grille had been. In short, the LS400 simply appealed to more potential buyers. A grille-facelift in 1994 didn’t help. Infiniti tried adding Q45A and Touring versions with an electronic Active-Suspension…still relatively few takers, as a lot of potential buyers probably still remembered how unreliable the competing Lincoln Town Cars had been with the factory air-suspension. Infiniti, of course, like Lexus, at the time, produced components of considerably higher quality than Ford, but potential customers were not convinced. However, one of my co-workers, at the time, decided to take advantage of the Q45’s strong depreciation from lack of demand, and bought himself a nice used one (without the fancy suspension), at a bargain price, that he kept for some time and enjoyed. he was the only person I ever knew that actually owned or leased one.

And that low-customer-demand did not change with the introduction of the second-generation Q45 in 1997. This time, noting the strong LS400 sales while the first Q45 lagged, the Infiniti designers completely changed course and decided to make the Second-Generation Q45 more traditional and luxury/comfort-oriented. The big 4.5L V8 of the first model was changed and downsized to 4.1L, producing less power. The odd blank-front end (and 1994 face-lift) was replaced with a more conventional-looking grille. Inside, the former sport-oriented interior was replaced by a softer/warmer-looking one with wood trim. The previous firmish suspension was replaced with a Detroit-style Cream-of Wheat suspension for more comfort over bumps. And more attention was paid to sound insulation….one of the outstanding features of the LS400 and why it sold so well compared to the Q45.

Unfortunately, the Second-Generation Q45 sold no better than the first….even with rebates and value-pricing. Other Infiniti products did much better in the marketplace, even the J30 with its (IMO) ugly egg-shaped rear end, the plain-looking M30, and the (also IMO) ugly-looking FX35. But the seemingly cursed Q45 simply could not roll out of showrooms. For the Third-Generation model, in 2001, Infiniti completely redesigned it, and, this time, gave it a more modern look, and tried to balance or combine the previous sporting-image of the first Q45 with the more-traditional comfort of the second. Yep……you guessed it………still almost no takers. I still remember, at an Infiniti dealer near my place, when I was doing a write-up on the then-new EX35 (now the QX50), they had one of the leftover final-production Q45’s in the showroom, listing (as I recall?) for $60,000+ on sale, marked down to $45,000.

The last Q45s were sold in the American market for the 2006 model year, although it remained iN production a few more years overseas…..a sad ending to what could have been a serious competitor to the Lexus LS. But, by then, Nissan’s reputation itself was deteriorating after its previous near-bankruptcy and take-over by the French Renault firm, and the inevitable cost-cutting, plus Renault’s long-standing reputation for poor quality in their products, also began to affect Nissan products as well.

And, as Always, Happy-Vehicle-Memories
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MM
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DRIVING IS BELIEVING
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mikeavelli

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The LS was not at all taken from the Celsior. The LS was an unheard of over 1 billion dollar effort from the ground up as a Lexus as a LS to be a Lexus. The confusion with many lies in the fact Lexus wasn’t launched in Japan until 2006, it launched in the USA and Europe in 1989. Thus the LS was rebadged as a Celsior.

As for the Q45 I wanted a first gen bad as a teen but it was out my price range. I saw it as a badass car. The LS at the time had zero appeal to me then but it was the far superior car and completely nailed the luxury customer.

The second gen was called a Q45 but the engine was smaller, a 4.1 with less hp. It also got smaller. It drove meh. It looked meh. Sold like ****.

Amazingly instead of figuring things out after a decade the 3rd gen debuted looking like nothing. It didn’t resemble a luxury product. The interior was nice and the new 4.5 engine had 340hp which was 50 more than the LS but it wasn't really any faster. The main thing was “worlds brightest headlights” like anyone cares.

Marketing each generation sucked bad with the intial “rocks and trees” campaign not showing the car is taught in college marketing courses as how not to market. Infinti dealer experience never could match Lexus

It’s sad because the Q45’s absolute failure hurts the image of Japanese luxury which hurts Lexus. The LS is the only Japanese sedan to be around still. Acura never made a competitor. From Asia only thr Equus/G90 competes.

Crazy to think Hyundai figured out what Nissan could not.
 
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ssun30

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I actually liked the 3rd gen Q45/Cima more than the 3LS.

The problem is Nissan never took the Q45 seriously enough. The LS is a clean sheet design aimed exactly to compete against international brands with its unique platform and production line. The LS came first, the Celsior later, not the other way around.

The Cima is just a more premium version of the Y32/33 Cedric platform. It is an afterthought. It's more of a direct competitor against the Crown Majesta. And I don't understand why they would market the Q45 as a "sporty" sedan. The sporty model of the Y32/33 platform is the Leopard, which competes against the Aristo/GS, and has sportier turbocharged V6 instead of the comfort oriented VH (the VH is overrated, the actual output is not higher than the 1UZ).

By early 1990s, Nissan's high-end lineup has become very bloated with three or four models occupying the same niche. Toyota didn't have the same problem, and were able to stay focused on the Lexus brand.
 
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The LS was not at all taken from the Celsior. The LS was an unheard of over 1 billion dollar effort from the ground up as a Lexus as a LS to be a Lexus. The confusion with many lies in the fact Lexus wasn’t launched in Japan until 2006, it launched in the USA and Europe in 1989. Thus the LS was rebadged as a Celsior.

As for the Q45 I wanted a first gen bad as a teen but it was out my price range. I saw it as a badass car. The LS at the time had zero appeal to me then but it was the far superior car and completely nailed the luxury customer.

The second gen was called a Q45 but the engine was smaller, a 4.1 with less hp. It also got smaller. It drove meh. It looked meh. Sold like ****.

Amazingly instead of figuring things out after a decade the 3rd gen debuted looking like nothing. It didn’t resemble a luxury product. The interior was nice and the new 4.5 engine had 340hp which was 50 more than the LS but it wasn't really any faster. The main thing was “worlds brightest headlights” like anyone cares.

Marketing each generation sucked bad with the intial “rocks and trees” campaign not showing the car is taught in college marketing courses as how not to market. Infinti dealer experience never could match Lexus

It’s sad because the Q45’s absolute failure hurts the image of Japanese luxury which hurts Lexus. The LS is the only Japanese sedan to be around still. Acura never made a competitor. From Asia only thr Equus/G90 competes.

Crazy to think Hyundai figured out what Nissan could not.
Yup, and the ES250 was just a stopgap vehicle for the two years
 

RAL

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J Davis ILLingworth, the reputed Father of Lexus, recounts the launch of the Lexus Brand and in particular Flagship 1 (the LS400)
in his memoir: "God, Guts, Heartbreak & Headaches: The Start of Lexus"

You can download the free E-BOOK at: https://godofhope.net/category/lexus/

While it is written through the perspective of his personal religious faith, it is a fascinating recount of his career and the arduous 3-year task of launching Lexus with Flagship 1 beginning in 1986.

One interesting tidbit: Initially there was vociferous opposition to Lexus by much of TMC's corporate board. Necessarily, Flagship 1 was a secret project for Toyota to make "the finest car ever built." Without Eiji Toyoda's acquiescence, Lexus may never have been launched ...
 

mikeavelli

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I actually liked the 3rd gen Q45/Cima more than the 3LS.

The problem is Nissan never took the Q45 seriously enough. The LS is a clean sheet design aimed exactly to compete against international brands with its unique platform and production line. The LS came first, the Celsior later, not the other way around.

The Cima is just a more premium version of the Y32/33 Cedric platform. It is an afterthought. It's more of a direct competitor against the Crown Majesta. And I don't understand why they would market the Q45 as a "sporty" sedan. The sporty model of the Y32/33 platform is the Leopard, which competes against the Aristo/GS, and has sportier turbocharged V6 instead of the comfort oriented VH (the VH is overrated, the actual output is not higher than the 1UZ).

By early 1990s, Nissan's high-end lineup has become very bloated with three or four models occupying the same niche. Toyota didn't have the same problem, and were able to stay focused on the Lexus brand.

3LS never appealed to me though it’s considered maybe the best built Lexus. Looked way to boxy. Refresh helped in 2004. Interior was always superb.

Infinit never was taken that seriously nor got the true investment it needed. Today it’s Nissan plus with only one sedan which is almost 9 years old.

When your flagships fail it’s hard for any brand to overcome.
 

mmcartalk

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The LS was not at all taken from the Celsior. The LS was an unheard of over 1 billion dollar effort from the ground up as a Lexus as a LS to be a Lexus. The confusion with many lies in the fact Lexus wasn’t launched in Japan until 2006, it launched in the USA and Europe in 1989. Thus the LS was rebadged as a Celsior.

As for the Q45 I wanted a first gen bad as a teen but it was out my price range. I saw it as a badass car. The LS at the time had zero appeal to me then but it was the far superior car and completely nailed the luxury customer.

The second gen was called a Q45 but the engine was smaller, a 4.1 with less hp. It also got smaller. It drove meh. It looked meh. Sold like ****.

Amazingly instead of figuring things out after a decade the 3rd gen debuted looking like nothing. It didn’t resemble a luxury product. The interior was nice and the new 4.5 engine had 340hp which was 50 more than the LS but it wasn't really any faster. The main thing was “worlds brightest headlights” like anyone cares.

Marketing each generation sucked bad with the intial “rocks and trees” campaign not showing the car is taught in college marketing courses as how not to market. Infinti dealer experience never could match Lexus

It’s sad because the Q45’s absolute failure hurts the image of Japanese luxury which hurts Lexus. The LS is the only Japanese sedan to be around still. Acura never made a competitor. From Asia only thr Equus/G90 competes.

Crazy to think Hyundai figured out what Nissan could not.


Wiki verifies that the original LS was a rebadged Celsior.

I probably would have preferred the 2nd-Generation myself, as the original Q45 was to plain-looking and sport-oriented for my tastes. The reduced power was not an issue with me, as I don't drive aggressively.

As for Hyundai figuring out what Nissan did not, Hyundai never had Renault ownership dictating to them like Nissan and Infiniti did. Carlos Ghosn was (apparently) a crook...even over and above his well-publicized escapade in (and from) Japan, there are now five international warrants out for his re-arrest.
 

mikeavelli

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Wiki verifies that the original LS was a rebadged Celsior.
Mike it’s wrong. The LS was not a rebadged Celsior and there are multiple books about the creation of Lexus and the LS.

The LS and Lexus were ground up efforts to be a Lexus. Again it was rebadged a Celsior in Japan due to no dealer network. Toyota didn’t spend over 1 billion dollars to make a Celsior just to rebadge it a Lexus.
 

ssun30

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The LS400 officially went into sale in USA in August 1989. The Celsior launched 2 months later in Japan. From a timeline perspective, the LS is not a rebadged Celsior, period.

There is a case for calling the GS a rebadged Aristo because the latter was offered 2 years before the GS and had more options. But from the beginning the S140 Aristo was designed to give the Lexus brand a cheaper LS with European styling and sporty drive performance. I don't know the full story of why the 1GS was delayed so much and had such a scaled back lineup.
 

RAL

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Wiki verifies that the original LS was a rebadged Celsior.

I probably would have preferred the 2nd-Generation myself, as the original Q45 was to plain-looking and sport-oriented for my tastes. The reduced power was not an issue with me, as I don't drive aggressively.

As for Hyundai figuring out what Nissan did not, Hyundai never had Renault ownership dictating to them like Nissan and Infiniti did. Carlos Ghosn was (apparently) a crook...even over and above his well-publicized escapade in (and from) Japan, there are now five international warrants out for his re-arrest.
With all respect sir, Wiki is your definitive source? Did you consider the primary source I posted?
True, the LS engine was under development prior to the decision to create the Lexus premium division in '86, but the LS was not a rebadged Celsior.
 

Levi

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I don't hate the Q45, but the car that made Infiniti a "brand" was the FX. Nissan/Infiniti/Renault/Ghosn/whoever was at head, failed to support and was shortsighted about what the FX could do to the brand. The smaller EX was such a half-arsed effort even compared to the GLK and clearly the very successful X3. A huge opportunity was lost not giving the FX the GT-R powertrain later on. No update was the most stupid suicide.


"In 2017, the QX70 would not be offered due to poor sales and the company's focus to the better-selling (FWD) QX50"


Are you kidding? 10 years old car has poor sales? Of course, update the damn thing, but no, they decided to let die off the first and most successful performance CUV, whose spiritual successor now is a V12 Ferrari Purosangue, a whole other level. Idiots.... That is why I dislike Infiniti and Nissan. Anyway nothing will be of them anymore, pity still for Japanese auto industry.

+10 years, pioneer and highest volume BEV on sale, the Leaf, they could not even make a new gen, just a facelift, still no other BEV when Kia, Hyundai, VAG and now even Toyota have, and they could not make en electric FX before the Mustang, Porsche Macan-e, Audi e-Tron, or the ugly BMW iX and left the Telsa Model X rival-less,.... oh good grief!!! Heck, even Jaguar got the i-Pace out!!! Holy mother of a corporate strategic blunder....
 
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Sulu

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Wiki verifies that the original LS was a rebadged Celsior.
That is not how I read the Wikipedia article. The article does say that Toyota spent over US$1-billion on the F! project that developed a "world-class luxury sedan" for what became the "Lexus" brand.

It does not make sense to me that Toyota would spend an outrageous amount of money if there was already a Toyota sedan available to simply rebadge as a Lexus; that would seem a huge amount of wasted money to rebadge a Toyota.
 

Och

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The first gen Q45 was awesome, my cousin had one back in 1994, it was like a spaceship back then.

Speaking of $1B, Ford spent and GM spent $1B+ on awful cars like the Cougar and some FWD Oldsmobiles.
 

mikeavelli

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A great watch. Reminded me why as a teen I loved the Q45. **** wood lol. Loved the face with no grill. It was anti establishment.

Imagine if it got a proper marketing launch. Things could be so different.