By Drew Johnson
Thursday, Nov 8th, 2012 @ 2:15 pm
 

Happy birthday to Nissan's Infiniti luxury division! On this day 23 years ago Nissan launched the Infiniti brand in the North American market, following in the footsteps of Honda's Acura and Toyota's Lexus.

Although Infiniti's portfolio now includes a total of six different model lines, Infiniti's first days were a little more meager. Infiniti launched with just two vehicles - the flagship Q45 sedan and the M30, which was available as both a coupe and convertible.

Whereas Lexus took direct aim at Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti was keen to chip away at BMW's market share by offering vehicles that were not only luxurious but also fun to drive. As a result of that passionate edge, the Q45 arrived with advanced features like a 278 horsepower V8, four-wheel steering and an active suspension system.

Infiniti's performance DNA was watered down over the years with vehicles like the G20 and I30, but the brand regained its mojo with the 2002 market launch of the G35. Considered a legitimate alternative to the vaunted BMW 3-Series, the G35 offered gobs of power, excellent handling and an obtainable price tag. Although the G series has been refined over the last decade, it remains a driver's car to this day - even more so in IPL trim.

Infiniti was also one of the first automakers to capitalize on the performance crossover market with the FX. The FX has quietly inspired vehicles like the BMW X6 and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport.

Infiniti celebrated its birthday with 8,757 sales last month, an increase of 27.6 percent versus a year earlier.