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NEW York International Auto Show: Nissan unveils new Infiniti

A SIX-cylinder diesel engine could be all that stands in the way of this rear-wheel drive executive saloon going on sale in the UK – but it is likely to be a matter of time.

The Infiniti M45 concept car was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show and is just 12 months away from going on sale in North America, representing the first in a new generation of products from Nissan's luxury arm.

But it is Nissan's intention that Infiniti will become a global luxury car brand, with its arrival in Europe expected within five years.

Infiniti was launched in North America in 1989, in the same way that Toyota set up Lexus and Honda invented Acura to compete against the premium European brands as well as luxury US products.

The search is on to find a suitable large capacity diesel engine to allow it to satisfy European appetites for diesel premium cars, and provide it with a sound running cost footing for user choosers in the UK.

Nissan is understood to be investigating sourcing a modern large capacity diesel engine from other manufacturers, although it could be difficult to persuade a premium manufacturer to agree to supply a rival in the same market sector.

A strategy for introducing Infiniti in Europe hasn't been decided, as Nissan chief operating officer Carlos Ghosn told Fleet News earlier this year. Ensuring Infiniti was a success in North America was the main priority.

However, it is likely that the vehicles would be sold at separate outlets from Nissan vehicles, as Toyota did with Lexus when it was introduced in the UK in 1990.

The Infiniti car range includes luxury saloons, sport utility vehicles, a coupe and the new M45, which although still a year away from production is likely to be a key vehicle in its UK line-up.

Mark Igo, vice-president and general manager of Infiniti, said the M45 Concept was a strong indication of the design of future Infiniti models and maximised the balance between 'luxury, sportiness and roominess'.

According to Jed Connelly, senior vice-president for sales and marketing at Nissan North America, Infiniti was the fastest growing luxury car franchise in 2002 and 2003 with sales increases of 25% and 33% respectively.

As a highly profitable branch of the company, Connelly said he expected more resources to be devoted to Infiniti over the next few years.

The M45 Concept uses a 4.5-litre V8 petrol engine, although a six-cylinder engine will also be offered in the production car and is aimed at the new Audi A6, BMW 5-series, Lexus GS and Mercedes-Benz E-class.

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