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Auto blogMon, 16 Dec 2013 10:31:00 EST
The gradual replacement of mechanical components in automobiles with electronic systems brings with it definite advantages, but also poses certain potential dangers. Just think of the inevitable problems you've encountered with the computer on which you're reading these words and you'll know what we mean. But a computer crashing isn't as problematic as your car going on the fritz when its electronic systems fail.
That's what Infiniti is being reminded of with its new drive-by-wire electronic steering system. The Japanese automaker developed and installed the Direct Adaptive Steering System in its new Q50 sedan, but a small number of those cars on the road are now being recalled due to that system.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on a small number of examples, the Q50's optional by-wire system may fail if the temperature in the engine compartment drops below freezing. There's a backup mechanical setup in place should the electronic system fail, but NHTSA says that the backup system may also fail to engage in time to avoid a crash.
Infiniti and Lexus might be a little concerned now that both of their new luxury sedans, the Q50 and IS250, were unable to net Consumer Reports vaunted "Recommended" rating during their first year on the market. In fact, not only did the two fail to earn a "Recommended" rating, they finished behind the vast majority of the competition after testing, including the BMW 328i, Mercedes-Benz C250, Lincoln MKZ and Volvo S60 T5.
The Q50 managed to snag a "Very Good" rating overall, but CR criticized it's road manners for not being as thrilling as the car it (sort of) replaces, the G37. The mag called the handling mundane and the steering dull, while also remarking on the poor controls. According to CR, the interior quality is "nothing special." Shade was also thrown at the Q50's reportedly poor ride.
Compared to the IS, though, the Q50 got off easy. CR called it "neither sporty nor luxurious," while criticizing the 2.5-liter V6's lack of oomph and poor fuel economy. The mag then went on to lambaste the IS's handling, steering, interior, cabin space and infotainment system.
What's in a name? This cliched phrase probably gets tossed out at every marketing meeting that happens when a new car gets its nomenclature. We know the answer, though: everything. The name of a car has all the potential to make or break it with fickle customers that are more conscious than ever about what their purchases say about them.
That's giving headaches to marketing folks across the automotive industry. "It's tough. In 1985 there were about 75,000 names trademarked in the automotive space. Today there are 800,000," Chevrolet's head of marketing, Russ Clark, told Automotive News. Infiniti's president, Johan de Nysschen, echoed Clark's sentiment, saying, "The truth of the matter is, across the world, there is hardly a name or a letter that hasn't already been claimed by one car manufacturer or another. You can go through the alphabet - A, B, C and so forth - and you will quickly see that almost all available letters are taken."
What has that left automakers to do? Get creative. In the case of Infiniti, it made the controversial move to bring all of its cars' names into a new scheme, classifying them as Q#0 for cars and QX#0 for SUVs and crossovers. So the Infiniti G, which was available as the G25 and G37, is now the Q50. The FX37 and FX50 are now the QX70.