2015 Infiniti LE 'Luxury Leaf' Sedan Put On Hold Indefinitely

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Remember the 2015 Infiniti LE, the first all-electric mid-size sedan from Nissan's luxury brand?

If you're waiting to see the first LEs on the roads, don't hold your breath.

Unveiled as a concept at the 2012 New York Auto Show, to rave reviews, the battery-electric LE was to be produced in the U.S. using essentially the same underpinnings as the Nissan Leaf now being built in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Now, however, the Infiniti LE has been put on indefinite hold by Infiniti's recently-hired CEO, Johan de Nysschen.

Buyers 'idiots'?

Electric-car fans may remember de Nysschen as the man reported to have said in 2009, as the head of Audi in the U.S., that anyone who bought a Chevrolet Volt was "an idiot" (he later denied making the comment).

Conspiracy theorists could see the suspension of the LE as another episode in an evil plot by de Nysschen to kill or delay plug-in electric cars.

Especially since de Nysschen also said last fall that the gorgeous Infiniti Emerg-E plug-in hybrid supercar wouldn't be built either.

He left Audi in the U.S. to head the Infiniti brand exactly one year ago.

Pressure for sales volume

As CEO, de Nysschen faces huge pressure to boost global sales of the luxury brand from last year's 170,000 to half a million or more.

As trade journal Automotive News notes, he wants to focus on more practical models that will sell in much higher volumes.

The LE, he said, offers "perceived progressive technology" but wouldn't have added much overall volume.

It was an easy decision, he told Automotive News, to prioritize other developments, including a halo car that will enter a new market segment and make a statement about the brand's luxury-sector positioning.

Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen (left) with Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn

Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen (left) with Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn

Enlarge Photo

Electric Infiniti coming ... sometime

Suspending the LE project may put de Nysschen at odds with his boss, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, the auto industry's single strongest proponent of volume-built battery-electric vehicles.

De Nysschen confirmed that there will be an "Infiniti EV," but said the question was one of timing against other priorities.

And he noted that a new generation of lithium-ion cell technology might mean the existing battery pack was outdated by the time the LE had launched as a 2015 model.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

No Tesla competitor?

Electric-car observers also suspect that the LE as described might not have succeeded in the market.

With the sales success this year of the Tesla Model S luxury sport sedan, starting at $69,900, it appears that high electric range is greatly valued by the market. (Duh.)

But using the Leaf's 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery in a presumably heavier LE luxury sedan would likely not have offered range much above the 2013 Leaf's rated 75 miles.

On April 1, Tesla canceled the lowest-range 40-kWh version of its Model S due to what it said was lack of buyer demand.

When that happened, Infiniti may have realized that any hope of the LE competing with the bottom of the Model S range had gone out the window.

The news, incidentally, must have been deeply disappointing to Fox News commentator Neil Cavuto, who claimed the LE concept was his idea.


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Comments (9)
  1. Probably a good call. Tesla model S is much better and the LEAF fills the need at the low end.

  2. This just wasn't the car needed to fill the space and compete with the other autos in the segment. This car is waiting for the same thing all of us are waiting for...the next generation EV battery.

  3. As much as I would like to say it is some sort of move to kill the plug in I have to agree that they would have had to increase the battery pack... Tesla has proven that todays "Luxury" consumer needs 150+ miles per charge to feel comfortable. But personally I think Tesla got rid of the 40Kw Model S cause it would compete against its future smaller Tesla brethren... So If I could spend 55K on two electric cars with the same 40Kw battery pack (I am pretty sure the smaller Tesla will carry this size only) and one is much larger and more luxurious than the other guess which one I would buy? Tesla does not need to have its own cars compete against each other... smart move if you ask me, But that move did take away my Tesla dream... for now...

  4. Few would pay more than about a $5000 premium for a LEAF in sheep's clothing. That's all this is.

    But Nissan, don't scrap that body design. Use it in place of the current LEAF body and I'd buy one.

  5. Tesla has raised the bar dramatically in the luxury segment making a luxury sedan with a 24KWh battery definitely a car for idiots.

    It's not the first high class EV that was cancelled since Tesla's successful first quarter, this was preceded by Audi's R8 E-tron. Tesla is the benchmark and all the competition can do at this point is cancel projects and go back to the drawing board.

  6. Yup, 40kWh usable is the minimum threshold for a 'luxury' EV IMO, like say a C-class Benz or 3-series BMW. With active heating and cooling, of course.

  7. No luxury buyer is going to buy a BEV that can't go 80+mph for at least 1 hour in a mild 55 degree whether.

  8. de Nysschen ... if he said it is the idiot. The Volt is a very unique automobile. As these new cars come out (or don't come out) I keep asking myself "Where's the engine?". I have one in my Volt but it almost never runs. My eMPG combined is 125mpg + and gas miles 200+. That's real now that my utility rate has dropped to zero 10pm til 6am. First 1500 miles = 7.3 gallons. Don't keep the Volt a secret, it is the best IMHO.

  9. Good call. There is a limit to the number of hobbies you can support. The Leaf is a viable program for the market segment. Infinity needs work on it's product line (anything exceptional that comes to mind?) and can't afford to spend a $1B on R&D competing with Tesla. I'd rather that they just put a fraction of this money into improving the ev they have.

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