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Business trends

Nissan to paint Infiniti brand green as regulatory net tightens

Toyota and Ford also moving to electrify their offerings

An Infiniti sedan at the North American International Auto Show. (Photo by Akiyoshi Inoue)

DETROIT, U.S. -- Japan's Nissan Motor plans to transform its upscale Infiniti brand into an electrified line amid a wave of international automakers hastening to add eco-cars as stricter environmental rules press in around the world.

From 2021 on, all new Infiniti models will sport electric motors. The marque sold some 246,000 units worldwide in 2017 -- mostly in the U.S., though with growth in such markets as China and Europe. It aims to have eco-friendly rides constitute half global sales in 2022, luring buyers with its green-car credentials.

Fully or partly electric vehicles now supply just a few percent of Nissan's worldwide sales on average, including those under its own brand. By 2022, it aims to lift this to 40% in Japan and Europe, 20-30% in the U.S. and 30% in China.

American household name Ford Motor will spend $11 billion by 2022 to bring 40 electrified models to market under plans announced Sunday at the North American International Auto Show here. Toyota Motor has also reiterated its aim of introducing electric, fuel cell or hybrid vehicles across its premium Lexus lineup by 2025.

In California and nine other U.S. states, beginning with 2018 models, hybrids will not count toward sales quotas for zero-emissions vehicles. By around 2025, electrics, plug-in hybrids or fuel cell vehicles will likely be required to make up about 10% of sales on a unit basis.

China will also require fixed percentages of vehicles produced and sold to be fully or partly electric starting in 2019. In Europe, on top of tightening carbon dioxide emissions regulations, countries including the U.K. and France are moving to phase out conventional cars altogether down the road.

Automakers in China, the world's biggest electric-vehicle market, are seizing on the global electrification wave as a chance to flex their muscles in the field, breaking into the competition in such markets as Japan, the U.S. and Europe.

Guangzhou Automobile Group, a major domestic player that has joint ventures with a number of foreign automakers, has said it will enter the American market with an electrified mini sport utility vehicle by the end of 2019. It will set up a development hub in Detroit to follow an existing one in the tech hub of Silicon Valley and plans to enter Europe as well.

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