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Infiniti’s new electric concept car can only be described as vintage future

The sleek electric racer landed this week at Pebble Beach

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Infiniti’s new Concept 10 dips into the automotive greatest hits playbook. The single-seater sports car concept  teases the way Infiniti will address electric luxury in our not-so-distant future. Introduced Friday during Monterey Car Week, where international car collectors gather to fawn over beloved classics, Infiniti is making a statement as it maps out its trajectory for new electric models set to debut in 2021.

While Infiniti didn’t even exist in the in the 1960s, the cars from that era have left an impression on its contemporary designers. A look at the angled hood and sloping rear conjures up a 1960s era Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto, a car with a cult following. And then there are cues to the racing scene, where modifications were a symbol of the DIY inspiration celebrated by the grassroots motorsports that thrived in southern California.

It’s a sunny, optimistic vision

I see Star Trek on the asymmetrical tonneau cover that’s more of an abstract sculpture than a practical element. There’s nothing practical there — this concept is all about being dreamy. It’s a sunny, optimistic vision, in a car that confidently positions its driver out in the open air.

It’s the first complete vision shown by the Infiniti studios since Karim Habib, formerly of BMW, took the reigns as chief designer one year ago.

“Here it was important to us that we take a concept that we know is a compelling, fun thing and you take that and interpret that for future,” Habibs said in an interview with The Verge. “The forms are a preview of we want to do. We want to have these to be very much more composed, much more restrained than what you see today, but we want it to be just as expressive. To be honest if we are able to do that, it’s what I’ve always tried to do in my career even as a student.”

The project was finished in only four months, an incredibly short time by traditional automotive industry standards. An international team of designers in studios based in the UK, Japan, and the US worked on the Concept 10. “To be honest, that’s why we are able to manage it. We were probably working 24 hours in the studio,” he says. Habib, who’s based in Japan, would check in with his London design team on the way home from work, with a directive. “And then I’d come back in the morning and it was done. The alliance as a whole is really well set for working around the globe.”

Infiniti wants to keep speed and joy in its purview

It’s clear that Infiniti wants to keep speed and joy in its purview as it moves toward introducing its first production electric vehicles in 2021. And Habib is also looking deeper with the company’s own design DNA. He points to Nissan’s own willingness to take chances on new forms . “Nissan and Infiniti have a unique history. You think about the VC Turbo, the FX45 was the first coupe like SUV, to have extreme proportions and a lean body.”


For Habib though his team is international, he’s found relevance in the roots of the Japanese brand. He is reticent to articulate the design language on exactly how  you define an Infiniti car, but he knows when he feels it. “One thing that’s been so great for me personally, the whole width of new design, architecture, art, and typography that I see in Japan has changed my way of seeing it. We don’t want any of it to be cliche, but you have to feel it.”

“We don’t want any of it to be cliche, but you have to feel it.”

It’s likely that the whimsical nature of the design briefly contributed to the pace of productivity. If you talk to enough car designers, most will tell you that they began drawing cars before they could read, and these were the cars they imagined: sinewy, coupe shapes that oozed form and fluidity. It was a theme designers also explored in the Infiniti Prototype 9, shown last year, which took homage from an earlier era in motorsports. “Last year we did the P9, inspired by race cars of the 30s. We wanted to keep that idea to have a relevance at Pebble Beach. Yes, we’re going to be electric, but we want to have fun. We want the act of driving an electric car to be pleasant. What better than a race car to do that, to show that idea.”