The speculation and reports were correct: at a Wednesday press conference in Frankfurt, Nissan Motor Company CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche confirmed that Infiniti will build a premium small car, based on a Mercedes-Benz platform, to rival the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.
The car will be released in 2014, and will use a selection of engines designed and produced by Mercedes. At Wednesday’s press conference, Ghosn said that the car will be the first Infiniti to be manufactured outside of Japan, owing to a strong yen pushing up manufacturing costs in Nissan’s home country. A location hasn’t been announced, but speculation suggests the car could be built both in Europe and China.
Allegedly, the car’s styling will be patterned after the Etherea concept, which Infiniti introduced in March at the Geneva Motor Show. The Etherea’s four-door hatchback style could allow the production car to square off against similar-shaped competitors from BMW and Audi, not to mention the likes of the Lexus CT 200h. Infiniti’s model will carry a selection of gasoline and diesel engines sourced from Mercedes-Benz, including Mercedes’ 1.8-liter gas-direct-injection turbo four, which produces 202 horsepower.
Thanks to European demand for premium small cars, Infiniti estimates that the new model will account for a whopping 40 percent of European Infiniti sales. As to whether the cooperation between two premium brands would spell trouble for Mercedes’ line of small cars (like the A- and B-Class), Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said he wasn’t worried, saying premium car customers have “extremely limited cross consideration” between the two brands.