Infiniti Design Chief Tells Us He Wants To Redefine The Sedan

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Forget the typical three-box design.

As crossovers continue to overtake sedan sales in the US and other overseas markets, automakers need to decide what to do to keep the sedan alive, if at all. Ford, for example, has already put the brakes on the Fusion redesign. But what about luxury brands, such as Infiniti? Does it continue with its current sedan formula or should it try something else? We spoke to newly minted Infiniti design chief Karim Habib, whose previous job was at BMW, about this subject at Detroit.

As we stood in front of the gorgeous new Inspiration Q concept, Habib admitted the familiar sedan design needed some refinement. "The sedan is sort of starting to kind of lose some market segment, so we need to find a way to redefine it," Habib explained. "To be honest for us, this concept was more trial and error. You have this more cab forward with the A pillar pushed forward. So we tried first with a shorter cabin with more trunk lid. Then realized it looks much better when you embrace the length, so we started pulling that glass rearward. It kind of came naturally. We also felt it looked simpler, sleeker, more elegant." For Infiniti, this could be a way for it to, at the very least, make its sedans stand out from the pack and bring in new customers.

However, Habib admitted the sedan bodystyle is no longer really necessary. "Many years ago, I was once told 'the sedan is the new coupe,' and I thought that was a really good quote because you don't actually need a sedan today. If you want an effective kind of SUV probably makes more sense. You pick a sedan because you want to, and you want something that looks good, something that says something. And that's why sedans are becoming more and more aesthetically pleasing. The interesting thing for us has been how to work with this cab forward, and I think we've created something quite balanced. I hope we'll be seeing it on our future sedans."

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Now, this begs the question: Will the Inspiration Q make production? Could it signal a new luxury flagship sedan to compete against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class? "At this time, it's purely a design study, but all options are on the table," Habib said. "Nothing should be ruled out."

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