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Q&A: Infiniti Americas’ Craig Keeys – What Comes Beyond the New QX80

by | April 1, 2024

The new Infiniti QX80 could become one of the Japanese luxury brand’s most important products in decades. Making its debut at the New York International Auto Show, the three-row SUV will serve much the same role as did the original Q45 sedan when Infiniti itself made its first appearance 35 years ago.

2025 Infiniti QX80 - beauty shot

The 2025 Infiniti QX80 made its debut at the NY International Auto Show.

Think of it as “the ultimate expression” of what Infiniti is capable of, said Craig Keeys, the group vice president of Infiniti Americas. Put another way, more than a few industry analysts are betting that the long-term fate of the automaker could depend on whether the 2025 Infiniti QX80 clicks with consumers. Perhaps, but there are plenty more products in the pipeline, said Keeys, who became Infiniti’s top U.S. executive in 2022,

He joined parent company Nissan in 1998 and has since held 18 different positions at Nissan and Infiniti. In his latest, Keeys oversees the luxury brand’s operations in North, Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean and Israel. He sat down with Headlight.News during an exclusive interview in New York to discuss not only the QX80 but other products to come, including the first Infiniti EVs. He also acknowledged some of the challenges the brand faces, and revealed how he hopes to finally gain traction against better-known luxury marques like Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Headlight.News: I’ve been following Infiniti since it debuted in 1989. How does the QX80’s role compared to the original Infiniti flagship, the Q45 sedan? It’s just as important, isn’t it?

Craig Keeys: It’s special. This vehicle is very meaningful for us. We’re approaching our 35th anniversary. We launched with the Q45 flagship. It set a new standard and introduced all sorts of technology that was new for its time. History repeats itself. Now, we’re full circle, back to launching a halo product that’s absolutely full of technologies, a suite of amenities. It’s got a better stature and presence than the prior generation…with our new design language, “Artistry in Motion.” The performance is going to be fantastic. This vehicle is essential to us. It’s setting the tone for the future of the brand.

Craig Keeys

“History repeats itself,” said Infiniti chief Craig Keeys.

HLN: Are you repositioning where the new QX80 fits in?

Keeys: I think we have to move a bit upstream (with) all the elements we just talked about. But I believe we are competitively priced starting at around $82,000. And with the Autograph (package) at the top, it’s in the mid-$110,000 range. (ED: The outgoing 2024 Infiniti QX80 starts at around $74,000.)

HLN: What are the primary competitors that pits you up against?

Keeys: We point towards Lincoln, Cadillac and also Mercedes – the Navigator, the Escalada and the GLS. When you compare us to those products, side-by-side, the stature and presence is pretty surprising and dominating. And the technology and performance are segment-leading.

HLN: We’re seeing more and more variants in this segment. Mercedes takes things to real extremes with the Maybach GLS (Ed: which starts at $175,000 and runs to over $200,000.) Could you do the same thing with the QX80 at some point?

Keeys: Infiniti has a produd history of just that with our IPL performance line and past sport editions. I do think there’s a place for (doing) that. I don’t want to speculate on future product. But, what I would tell you is keep your eye on the QX because I believe people want specialization and personalization, especially at that level. They want something that is different.

1989 Infiniti Q45

Infiniti’s original Q45 flagship.

HLN: Let me be blunt. Infiniti has struggled to have a real, clear identity out in the market. You’re less likely to be mentioned when buyers mention the top three luxury brands. How much of a challenge is it for you to finally reach out and get your share of mind?

Keeys: That’s a great question. How can you entrench a solid vision when (Infiniti has had) leadership instability? COVID was an amazing lesson because what we learned is that people in the upper end (of the economic ladder) were still shopping, despite the dynamic economy. So, Infiniti, being a luxury commodity that many people aren’t aware of….how do we get that message out? How do we showcase the fact that we have these competitive vehicles. It’s going to be a solid marketing campaign that’s built around the QX80, getting the message out about this product, and the insurgence of Infiniti.

More Infiniti News

HLN: You just had a meeting with all of your dealers, what I believe has been described as a first such meeting in a decade. What came out of that?

Keeys: I talked to them about the need to really elevate expectations for customers, so that we can start to move upstream and attract higher income households. This is really a shift away from being a value brand to becoming a valuable brand. That’s the mindset we need to have.

Infiniti QE Concept

The Infiniti QE Concept signals what the automaker’s first EV will look like.

HLN: What are you planning in terms of products to back up this shift?

Keeys: To that point, we launched the QX Monograph concept at Pebble Beach (the 2024 Concours d’Elegance) because we knew how desirable that vehicle is to our target customer. In October we confirmed three other products beyond the QX80 as part of this product renaissance with a focus on that same, higher-income consumer.

HLN: What sort of timeframe are we looking at to really flesh out the Infiniti line-up? And do you see other segments you need to go after?

Keeys: Well, the market is so dynamic, right? A year ago, we were talking solidly about EVs. This year, we’re talking about hybrids. After the election, who knows what we’ll be talking about. I would think, in the mid-term, we will have something to talk about every single year. Next year, we’ll refresh our QX60 platform and it will be a take on the Artistry in Motion design language you see in the QX80. Then we’ll have the fastback QX65. Then we’ll go into the electrified era with a sedan and a CUV. Within the range of the next three to five years it gives us good distance to act upon the goals we have in front of us.

HLN: Let’s talk about electrification. Infiniti certainly hasn’t been at the cutting edge, What should we expect from the brand?

Keeys: I think we’re in a good place. We will meet the federal mandates. We’ve got two products already in the pipeline that will be fully electrified. It’s also smart for any company to continue to explore where the industry is headed, what the consumer preferences are. If that includes hybrids, then the company will to ultimately make some smart decisions. In today’s day and age is happen through partnerships. It happens through dialogue. And it happens through your own product development. The one thing I’m solidly fixated on is the consumer experience – much more than just the product itself.

HLN: Can you be more specific about the first EV coming from Infiniti?

Keeys: It’ll be built off the QE Concept and it’s a four-door sedan. It’s got this kind of fastback look to it. We’ve always had this cherished history of performance sedans and this will really follow suit. Both (EVs) have been confirmed to be built in Canton (Mississippi) as part of a $500 million investment. As to the timeframe, it’ll be close to model year 2027.

HLN: With the modified Biden EV rules, what about hybrids and plug-ins?

Keeys: We just announced our ARC mid-term business plan. What I can tell you is that under that plan the Nissan group is committed to a very balanced portfolio. So we’re looking at various powertrains. But, for now, our plans are based on those two (EV) products. What I can tell you is we’ve got to keep our fingers on the pulse and ultimately pivot based on consumer preferences.

1 Comment

  1. When your SUV looks like EVERY OTHER SUV out there, what’s to click? It seems like a total waste of money to load it with ‘features’ that most drivers don’t know are there or how to use them if they did.
    I repeat: radio, heater, cruise control.


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