Colorado Springs area home and garden events starting Oct. 10 – Colorado Springs Gazette

WEDNESDAY

History of Victory Gardens/Grow and Give Webinar — Hosted by Colorado Master Gardeners Lunch & Learn, noon-1 p.m., free. Registration required: tinyurl.com/ya6qyu2l.

OCT. 21

Houseplants Webinar — Hosted by Colorado Master Gardeners Lunch & Learn, noon-1 p.m., free. Registration required: tinyurl.com/ya6qyu2l.

OCT. 28

Cool Tools — Sharpening & Maintenance, Favorite Tools & Gift Ideas Webinar — Hosted by Colorado Master Gardeners Lunch & Learn, noon-1 p.m., free. Registration required: tinyurl.com/ya6qyu2l.

Email information for the Home and Garden Calendar at least two weeks in advance: listings@gazette.com.

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Ask a Master Gardener: Growing shallots | Home And Garden – NRToday.com

Question: Is it too late to plant shallots? Last year my shallots were very small. How can I grow larger shallots?

Answer: No, it is not too late, but you should plant them soon.

Traditionally, shallots are planted around the second Monday in October. Shallots are well adapted to the Umpqua valley’s wet, cool winters and dry summers and will produce a nice harvest of large shallot bulbs in early July.

Although shallots can be grown from seed, it is best to grow shallots from bulbs (sets). You can buy shallot bulbs from local nursery centers, from vendors at the Farmer’s Market or from a large number of online seed companies. The shallots at the grocery stores have been treated to reduce sprouting so that is not a good source.

There are a good number of different varieties of shallots available. They come in different colors, shapes and sizes. Each bulb you plant will produce three to seven new bulbs. Once you start to grow shallots, you can replant a portion of your crop for the next year. This means you never have to buy seed shallots again!

Shallots have very short roots, so it is important to keep water and nutrients close by. Although shallots can tolerate heavy soils because the bulbs form on top of the soil, well-amended soil will produce more and larger shallot bulbs. Prepare your soil by digging in a good bit of compost and a little fertilizer to a depth of at least one foot.

Set up your irrigation system as you will need to provide regular irrigation until the rains start in the fall and then again in the early summer. You can hand water shallots, but I prefer to use a T-Tape irrigation system because it does not get the leaves or soil surface wet. Not wetting the leaves reduces disease, while dry soil reduces weed seed germination.

Once your soil is ready, plant individual shallot bulbs on 4-5 inch centers. It is critical that you plant the bulbs with the root end down. If this does not happen, the shallots will not form correctly. The bulbs should be simply pressed into the soil until the top of the bulb is just at or just below the top of the soil. Leaving a little bit of the bulb sticking out will be perfect.

Finish off by irrigating them well and setting up an irrigation schedule that will keep them moist but not water logged until the winter rains start.

In a few weeks, they should sprout and grow to about a foot high before winter sets in and they stop growing. Keep your shallot plot weed-free, as shallots do not compete well against weeds. In late February, give your shallots a bit more fertilizer. This will get them ready to take off as soon as the weather warms up.

When the rains stop in the spring, start regular irrigation and continue to control weeds. Your shallots may send up a flower stalk. If that happens, cut the stalk out just above where it emerges from the stem. This will force the shallot to focus its energy on growing larger bulbs.

By early July consider reducing the irrigation. Late in June, the outer leaves will start to yellow. When most, if not all, the leaves have turned brown, harvest your shallots. To harvest, gently lift the whole plant out of the soil and gently remove any large bits of soil hanging on the roots.

Lay the whole plant out in a single layer, out of direct sunlight, to cure for about two weeks. After they have cured, you can cut the stems off, remove any remaining soil and store in a cool, dark place. Your shallots should store for about a year. Set aside the largest bulbs to plant for the following season.

I hope you enjoy growing and eating your home-grown shallots.

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Kinzler: Squirrel stashing nuts, odd squash and sour apples – West Central Tribune

A: From the shape, I think you’re correct about them being from a butternut tree, whose botanical name is Juglans cinerea. Butternut is more borderline in winter hardiness than its close cousin the black walnut, which is Juglans nigra. Black walnut fruit are more rounded and butternut fruit are more lemon-shaped, which the fruit in the photo seem to be. Inside these fruits are the walnutlike nuts.

It’s fairly common for squirrels to gather black walnut seeds and “squirrel them away” in odd places, such as people’s flower planters, flower beds and gardens, where they sprout the following spring. I’ve seen the fruits piled in little crevices at the base of trees, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them embedded in the bark the way your photo shows.

The presence of these fruits in your maple tree shows that there must be a mature butternut tree somewhere close by.

RELATED COLUMNS: Skip raking and mow over leaves this fall for a healthier lawn | Mushrooms on tree, fall tilling and sand cherry pruning | Creeping Charlie, trimming evergreens and ripening pumpkins | Saving seeds, quackgrass control and tiny apple conundrum | Ailing Autumn Blaze, Honeycrisp ripeness and wasps in the wall

Q: I found a squash that’s light green, the size of a pumpkin, and it’s the only one like it in the squash patch. All the rest are the normal buttercup squash. I’m wondering what would cause this? — Harold P.

A: The lone squash of a different type that you found in the buttercup patch is most likely the result of a seed in the original seed packet that was of that type. Occasionally seed mix-ups happen in packaging seeds, which is understandable when seed types look nearly identical, as with various types of squash.

One easy explanation of mix-ups is in the equipment used to package seeds. When one batch of squash seed is run through the machinery and the machine is cleaned before switching to another type of squash, one seed clinging in a crevice can easily end up in the packet of the next type.

It might mistakenly be thought that this was the result of some type of cross-pollination in your garden. That wouldn’t be the case, because any type of cross-pollination in your buttercup squash affects the seeds inside the fruit, not the appearance or size of the fruit itself. It will be interesting for you to sample the squash.

Q: I have a Haralred apple tree and the apples are big and so nice but very sour. Next door there’s a flowering crab tree, and I’m wondering if it pollinated with my Haralred apple tree, making the apples sour. Is that possible? I’m not sure what to do with the apples. I’m going to wait for a hard freeze to see if they will sweeten. — Betty S.

A: Haralred apples don’t ripen fully until well into October, so they should be left on the tree as long as possible, as cooler temperatures promote the conversion of starches into sugars. Haralred is a redder-skinned version of Haralson, and both can be quite tart if sampled in September. By now, we’ve had more frosts, and hopefully the apples have begun to taste less tart.

There’s no need to worry about cross-pollination affecting the fruit. Apple trees actually require cross-pollination from a variety different than itself to produce fruit. Flowering crabs are great sources of pollen, as bees fly among trees. The pollen affects only the seeds inside the fruit, not the fruit itself or its quality. That’s why if you plant a seed from inside one of your Haralred apples, the resulting seedling will be different, depending on where the pollen came from.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

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Garden Mastery: Chrysanthemums fill our region with brilliant fall colors – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Our gardening neighbors in the Midwestern, Eastern and Northern states welcome their fall season in predictable ways. The sun rises later in the morning, setting a bit earlier in the evening. Nighttime temperatures begin to dip. Bird species begin their southward migration to warmer climates. The real fall showstopper in these parts of our country is the dazzling display of leaves beginning to change color, from gold to reddish-orange, from crimson to brown.

The Southern California fall season is shorter in duration. Changes to our landscape and gardens arrive slowly, are more subtle and are too soon gone. While we don’t have the display of leaves changing color all around us, we do begin to notice that our garden plants are now beyond their peak, and bloomers have finished flowering.

It’s at this time of year that I wish for just a little something to brighten up my garden landscape. And then I find just what I was wishing for — at the supermarket, of all places! I spot rows of potted chrysanthemums, all wrapped in vivid foil colors. Yes, fall has arrived in Southern California.

These past several months, you may not have been able to travel farther than your local grocery or home improvement store. So, let me invite you to a virtual armchair “historical tour” on chrysanthemums. We’ll travel far and back in time to learn about this flower and plant.

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Chrysanthemums, often called by their shortened name “mums,” naturally flower in the fall when days are short and nights are long. With blooms lasting for weeks, mums are easy to grow and come in a variety of sizes and colors. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them by their common names: pompon, button, spray, cushion, spider and florist’s mums, a special variety bred to have long stems. Did you know that mums also enjoy some interesting symbolic meanings? Depending on which part of the world you come from, the flower can symbolize life and vitality, or death and sorrow.

Chrysanthemums are in the Asteraceae plant family and have a long and interesting history. Originating in Asia, where they were cultivated as a medicinal herb, chrysanthemums were introduced to Japan in the fifth century and are considered a symbol of the country itself. The Japanese call the chrysanthemum “kiku”; the flower blossom is the imperial crest for the Japanese royal family and is the country’s national flower. By the 17th century, the chrysanthemum was brought to Europe. The first flowers seen by Europeans may have been small, yellow and daisylike. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, gave the chrysanthemum its Latin name from the Greek words chrysous, meaning “golden,” and anthemon, meaning “flower.”

First introduced to the U.S. during colonial times, the chrysanthemum gained ever-increasing popularity by the late 19th century with garden clubs promoting their special collections of new varieties. Today, gardeners can learn about all chrysanthemum flower types from the National Chrysanthemum Society’s classification system. The society’s website lists the flowers according to 13 different bloom or petal “forms,” from in-curved, to reflex, single, semi-double, even spoon blossoms that have petals ending with a spoon shape. You’re certain to find a chrysanthemum for every color, scent, texture and shape imaginable. Many botanic gardens (Longwood Gardens, New York Botanical Garden) feature chrysanthemum festivals or exhibits each fall. Behind the scenes, staff gardeners work patiently to cultivate and display a variety of chrysanthemum “forms” by shaping the blossoms into flowering cascades of all types.

In 2018, the UC Master Gardener Program of San Diego County developed a program called “Reminiscence Gardening.” This program is facilitated by Master Gardener volunteers who provide gardening activities at memory care communities across San Diego County and at Alzheimer’s San Diego. Tabletop gardening sensory activities have been created for individuals to touch, feel, see and smell plants of varied colors, scents and textures. With chrysanthemums available in so many varieties, sizes and colors at this time of the year, these flowers are included in many of the “Reminiscence Gardening” sensory activities.

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If you plant potted chrysanthemums in the ground this fall and they survive the winter, you can encourage new growth in the spring by pinching back the stems that have new leaves. Pinching is squeezing them between your thumb and forefinger and removing the new stems. You’ll see additional stems branching out, and you’ll have more blooms next fall.

You may have heard the phrase “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Gardeners are an optimistic bunch. Here’s hoping that your travel plans for next fall will not be limited to virtual armchair tours. Perhaps you’ll be able to visit a chrysanthemum festival at a botanical garden or take a scenic drive and see the splendor of leaves changing color. In the interim, let’s all be thankful for the potted mums that we find at our neighborhood supermarkets and home improvement stores.

Purcell Montag is a UC Master Gardener who also enjoys travel, history, writing, genealogy and speaking Spanish.

Additional help:

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program provides details on pests that may afflict your chrysanthemums. The Master Gardener Association of San Diego County is involved in a variety of outreach programs, including a hotline, to provide answers to specific questions. Get free gardening advice on the Master Gardener Hotline, (858) 822-6910, or by email. Due to COVID-19, the Master Gardener Hotline staff members are working remotely to ensure they respond to your questions in a timely manner.

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Happening today at the Fall Dispatch Home & Garden Show – The Columbus Dispatch

The Columbus Dispatch

TODAY AT THE SHOW

Don’t miss “This Old House” host Kevin O’Connor’s virtual appearance today. He will offer advice and answer questions, plus you can also enter to win a private personal online conversation with him.

Be sure to check out all that this year’s show has to offer.

Location: DispatchHomeAndGardenShow.com

Admission: free

Hours: Show opens at 8 a.m.; chats are open through 8 p.m. Today is the last day for live virtual presentations and to chat with companies. Highlights from the show will remain online through Oct. 31.

Special attractions: The Backyard Garden Award winners will be announced at 4 p.m. 

Today’s workshops

Chat with presenters and get your specific questions answered; check online for additional workshops.

10 a.m.: SimpleBath/SimpleKitchen presentation

11 a.m: Kevin O’Connor, host of “This Old House”

Noon: How do you improve your indoor air quality?; presentation by Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning

4 p.m.: Backyard Garden Awards winners’ announcement

5 p.m.: planting bulbs using the lasagna layering technique

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The new kink in automotive hiring: Amazon

As if it hasn’t been hard enough recruiting work forces over the past couple of years, with booming sales and low unemployment, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, as business slowly creeps back to normal, automotive companies face a new challenge: Amazon.

The online marketplace plans to recruit 100,000 hourly U.S. and Canadian workers at a starting wage of $15. That is about 20 percent more than auto parts plants typically pay to start.

It’s making auto-sector expansion a bit tougher than normal.

“Not just Amazon, but all of the employers who have done well through the pandemic while the auto industry was stalled,” said Dietmar Ostermann, U.S. automotive advisory leader for PwC, “like Home Depot, food companies, grocery chains and medical-sector companies.”

Automotive manufacturers are increasingly competing for hourly labor with these major corporations and large gig economy employers — just one of many factors in the auto industry’s struggle to expand production.

To compete with other business segments, automotive employers are getting creative and reevaluating how they procure talent. That includes dispensing with some of the traditional hiring contingencies, such as drug testing and background screening, says Keilon Ratliff, vice president and automotive lead at Kelly Professional & Industrial.

“You now have different sectors all looking for the same talent, and people are amending some of the qualifications that they have on the front end,” he said. “Companies have had to adjust those processes in order to compete.”

Auto manufacturers have been dealing with some of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. since World War II. Trying to recruit workers in a market in which there is little available labor has been difficult.

This year, even though thousands of American workers were laid off and coping with a recession, the task of recruiting factory workers has been exacerbated by COVID-19. People are hesitant to take a job in a factory. And the availability of unemployment benefits of up to $25 an hour is beating out the lure of lower wages to go work in the potentially dangerous close quarters of an assembly plant.

Now it’s all now coming to a head.

“There is a significant shortage of workers in the auto industry right now,” Ostermann said.

As employers try to get new hiring projects on track, or just return to previous production levels, the shortage of workers is a bottleneck. Missing just a tenth of a needed work force can hold back volumes or thwart efforts to operate a plant efficiently.

David Kalb, president at Applied Tech Industries, a Tier 2 specialized automotive coatings provider in Chesterfield, Mich., said he has not been able to find enough workers to keep up with production commitments shortly after the industry came back on line.

“We had to go to 10-hour shifts, six days a week because we couldn’t get good help, other than the people we had,” said Kalb, who services 12 auto assembly plants.

In addition to working additional hours, Kalb had to outsource some work to competitors. “Just in trying to find people, we’ve added more temp agencies,” he said. “We had to increase our pay by a couple of bucks an hour, because that’s what the market was doing at the time.”

Others have asked salaried engineers to fill gaps on assembly lines.

“There’s definitely a battle for talent,” Ratliff said. “Customers are experiencing higher turnover rates. As we’re looking to engage with the work force, there’s lower enthusiasm to go back to work due to COVID.

“The war for talent became that much more challenging.”

Some employers also are considering making their wages more competitive, and partnering with organizations that have a pipeline to the manufacturing work force.

The Texas Workforce Commission — a state agency that provides work force development services to support the state’s economic development activities — creates grant programs that aim to boost the available worker pool. The commission connects incoming or expanding companies with those workers.

Texas is awaiting the arrival of a new Tesla Gigafactory truck plant southeast of Austin, which is likely to pull in more suppliers and spur local parts companies to expand production. That will create the need for more auto workers around Austin — an area that is hardly hurting for jobs. In addition to the University of Texas and state government offices, Dell Technologies is a major local employer, and a new Apple campus there plans to hire 15,000 people.

“You can have all the great tax incentives and benefits and be a nonunion state and all these things that Texas has, but if you don’t have the work force that is ready to meet those needs, that’s going to hurt that recruitment,” said James Bernsen, deputy director of communications at the state commission. “A key input is having that work force, and that’s really been our strength.”

Phone calls take new priority in pandemic

More customers are buying cars using a computer today, but one of a dealership’s most critical tools — if not the most vital — dates back more than a century.

The telephone.

Some dealers have invested in or expanded the use of products that help shoppers do more of the transaction online — e-commerce platforms, chatbots, video tools, e-contracting — during a pandemic in which close human contact is discouraged.

Yet the phone is a technological sales tool at dealerships’ disposal. Phone calls became more important during the coronavirus outbreak, especially while physical showrooms in some states were closed to walk-in and appointment traffic this spring, several dealership phone services providers told Automotive News. And they remain an indication of how serious a vehicle shopper is about buying.

Vendors can record phone calls, offer training and coaching, track conversations and alert dealerships to follow up with customers when calls aren’t properly handled. Some dealership managers say mobile technology also has made it easier to communicate with customers through text messages, video calls and virtual vehicle walk-arounds.

“It’s easier to go online,” said Steve Barnett, CEO of dealerTEL, a Vero Beach, Fla., phone systems provider that works with about 100 dealership rooftops.

“When I break out of that mold and I’m willing to click to dial and call a dealership, I’m serious today,” Barnett said.

“If you don’t take care of me on that phone, I’m done with you, because the next dealership is one click away on the phone. I don’t need you. I’ll pick the next guy because Google gave me five dealerships here to dial from.”

When Shults Auto Group closed its showrooms in New York and Pennsylvania this spring under state coronavirus restrictions, Matthew Kahm rerouted all extensions to one phone at each store and assigned an employee to answer calls.

The Jamestown, N.Y.-based dealership group, with eight franchised rooftops and three pre-owned stores, set up a voicemail message letting customers know the group’s stores were short-staffed — between 75 and 80 percent of employees were furloughed, Kahm said — and that someone would respond as soon as possible.

Call volume fell off in the early weeks of the pandemic, so the load could be managed with fewer people, said Kahm, general manager of two of the group’s stores.

More employees were added to the phone group as the number of calls increased.

“That was the sign things were opening back up, when the phones started ringing again,” he said.

Shults Auto Group installed digital retailing tools during the pandemic at stores that didn’t have them, and employees used the phone to walk customers through the online sales process.

Kahm said callers now often want to confirm that the dealership received their online submissions.

“The customer’s already at that transactional point when they’re calling us,” he said.

“We have to continue to work on our skills as dealerships to wow the customer while they’re on the phone and make it easy,” he added, “and not have customers bouncing around all over the place.”

Phone providers say dealerships also need to improve their processes to make sure customers are well-serviced on the telephone to avoid a bad experience that sends shoppers to another store.

Lonestar Toyota in Lewisville, Texas, near Dallas, ensures sales consultants are knowledgeable about the brand’s vehicles so they can answer every question a caller might have, said General Manager Ronald Bowie.

More customers are interested in working an entire car deal over the phone prior to going into the store, something Bowie said is relatively new during the pandemic. If a customer wants to transact by phone, the deal is sent to a manager who will follow the deal through closing and work with a customer to finish the paperwork either in-store or off-site.

“If I’m talking to you, I have more of a connection with you over the phone than I do over an email,” Bowie said. “I can send something to you in an email, and then you go and you can shop me to 10 other dealerships. This is just more of a one-on-one: ‘Hey, let’s figure out a way to make you happy.’ ”

As the pandemic continues, dealerships can enhance their phone capabilities by turning voice calls into video chats, experts said. For instance, Barnett said, a sales employee could take a customer for a virtual ride from inside the vehicle he or she is interested in buying. Instead of focusing on getting a customer to go into the store, he said, sales consultants should use the phone to build rapport in whichever way a customer wants to engage.

“Treat the phone as the most valuable technology that they have,” Barnett said. “That phone will give you more return on investment than any other piece of technology that you invested in in your store if you just pay a little attention to it.”

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Plant spacing for a healthy, fire-smart garden – Marin Independent Journal

Big spaces make playing hopscotch difficult for flames.

When playing hopscotch, we learned that making big jumps is hard. In a fire-smart landscape, we want to make it hard for fire to play hopscotch in our yards. Maintaining the proper space between plants is how we make it difficult for fire to hopscotch through your property to your home or your neighbor’s home.

Plant spacing is one of many planning and maintenance best practices for both a healthy and fire-smart garden. Plants that have to compete with their neighbors for soil nutrients and sunlight are not going to be as healthy as those that receive all the nutrients they need. Proper spacing also ensures their roots will not have to compete for nutrients and water.

But, there can be too much of a good thing. Some plants require a certain number of neighbors to pollinate, so make sure that you don’t end up with too few plants. Shade from properly spaced plants can crowd out weeds as they grow and keep the soil moist, creating a beneficial environment in your garden.

In a fire-smart yard, the zero- to 5-foot zone around the perimeter of structures on your property is the most important part of an effective defensible space strategy. Minimizing combustible materials and vegetation in this zone will reduce the potential for direct flame contact and elevated radiant heat exposure that would result from ember-ignited vegetation near your home or other structures on your property. Keeping plants around the perimeter properly spaced will prevent continuity of flames. Also, separate plants with non-combustible, permeable mulch like compost, gravels or rocks of varying sizes.

In the 5- to 30-foot zone, the goal is to reduce the connectivity between garden beds, shrubs and trees, so that if something ignites in this zone, the fire will not be able to hopscotch to the house or into the crowns of trees. Prune and thin plants to reduce fuel densities and create more space between them. Creating separation between the plantings, trees and the home achieves fuel and vegetation discontinuity. The jumps are too big for flames. Prune taller vegetation to control flame heights because fire likes to play three-dimensional hopscotch.

Courtesy of GardenSoft

California native plants are well adapted to our drought-oriented climate and a preferred choice for fire-smart gardens.

A home on a steeper slope, in a windy area or an area surrounded by unusually dense, tall or combustible vegetation increases the intensity of fire behavior, making it easier for fire to hopscotch. Make the spaces bigger to slow the spread of flames.

If you remove dead trees and shrubs to create more space, leave the roots in place to help prevent erosion. If you replace plants, there are many tempting plant choices at garden centers. Be sure to research the mature height and width of plants before you make your selections. Reading the plant tag, and paying close attention to the light requirement, water needs and mature size will help inform the spacing of your new plants. Then, locate your new plants so they will be properly spaced when they mature in three to four years.

Non-combustible mulch or low-growing groundcovers can be used to fill in between the new plantings and conserve moisture while denying fire a path to your home when the new plantings mature.

A healthy and fire-smart landscape is the result of applying best gardening practices to your yard. Having a healthy landscape discourages pests on a long-term basis and will significantly reduce the need for pesticides, which often have a negative impact on our environment. And proper plant spacing makes sure your yard won’t be a playground for fire.

The University of California Marin Master Gardeners are sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening, plant pests or diseases, call 415-473-4204 from 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays, bring in samples or pictures to 1682 Novato Blvd., Suite 150B, Novato, or email helpdesk@marinmg.org.

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Infiniti QX60 will test ‘Nissan-plus' strategy to speed new models

Nissan’s latest strategy for its premium Infiniti brand has been described as less “mini-Mercedes” and more “Nissan-plus.”

Financially beleaguered Nissan Motor Co. will lean into greater collaboration between mass-market Nissan and premium Infiniti. That means Infiniti will share platforms, powertrains and assembly lines with the Nissan product line in an effort to boost product development efficiencies.

But don’t expect the next fleet of Infiniti sedans and crossovers to be spruced-up Nissans. “Rebadged cars are not the direction that we’re going,” Infiniti Americas Group Vice President Jeff Pope told Automotive News last week.

Infiniti will differentiate with design, luxury and performance.

The new strategy “allows us to do more with less,” Pope said. “What that means is getting a vehicle into the market that has all the bells and whistles we expect it to have in a luxury vehicle and still be at a price point that we feel is very realistic.”

Platform-sharing among brands is likely to help automakers offset their pricey investments in electrification and autonomous driving technologies. Nissan and Infiniti already share platforms. The Nissan Z sports car shares underpinnings with the Infiniti Q50 and Q60.

“It’s the right thing to do in the industry,” Pope said. “What you’re able to do then is spend your resources on the things that are truly going to differentiate the car and make it a luxury car, versus a mass-market car.”

The strategic pivot comes as Infiniti updates what is one of the oldest product portfolios in the industry. Infiniti will launch five vehicles globally in the next three years, starting with the all-new QX55 crossover.

The coupe version of the QX50 was planned for the second half of 2020 but was delayed until early next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The QX55 will have a similar powertrain and sport a sloping roofline inspired by the first-generation FX performance crossover. While the new crossover shares design elements with the QX50, the front end is different and features a new grille design.

The QX55 “sets the stage for us to start to move forward,” Pope said.

That launch will be followed by a redesign of the midsize three-row QX60 crossover which should arrive in U.S. stores by summer. It will be the first product launch under the “Nissan-plus” strategy — a test to see whether the brands can share more components without sacrificing their distinct identities.

The second-generation QX60 will feature a raised hood profile, larger grille, dual 12.3-inch screens and a two-tone roof.

“You can expect the vehicle to be significantly upgraded in terms of technology and interior,” Pope said.

At launch, the QX60 is expected to be offered only with a gas engine. But, Pope left the door open for other powertrains. “We will not rule out anything in the future,” he said.

Last month, Infiniti teased elements of the next-generation QX60 crossover in a design study referred to as the QX60 Monograph.

The platinum-hued QX60 Monograph’s wide body and track revealed a more muscular look than that of the outgoing model. In the front and rear, “digital piano key” lighting delivers a futuristic feel while the rear lamps wrap around the tail in a continuous swoop.

“This design execution, yes it’s for QX60, but it also lends itself to where we might go in the future,” Pope said.

Updating the QX60 is a critical step in rejuvenating Infiniti, which has suffered a multiyear sales slide in the U.S. market. Infiniti’s U.S. sales cratered 21 percent last year, well before the hit of the coronavirus shutdown. Infiniti sales in the first nine months of this year fell 33 percent from the same time last year.

The QX60 accounted for nearly 40 percent of Infiniti’s U.S. sales last year.

“This is a key vehicle in our lineup,” Pope said. “It will make up a large portion of our sales and will drive a lot of our business as we move forward.”

The three-row crossover hits a market sweet spot in the U.S., Pope said, citing the model’s combination of utility and luxury.

He expects the new QX60 to help lift U.S. sales by drawing new customers to the brand.

“If you look at the Monograph that was shown, any vehicle that’s going to look like that is going to draw the attention of many consumers that have never driven Infiniti before,” Pope said. “Which is exactly what you want in a new model launch.”

FIXED OPS JOURNAL FORUM: Current state of the industry

Dealers face a number of service department challenges beyond the pandemic, including declining rates of customer retention and satisfaction. But there are solutions out there.

Speakers:

Eliza Johnson, Director, Carlisle & Company
Scott Doering, Vice President of Customer Service, Volvo Car USA
Nick Latino, COO, Performance Auto Group
Dawn Matthews, Service and Parts Director, David Auto Group
Scott Thompson, Senior Vice President, Business Leader, CRM and Layered Applications, CDK Global
Dave Versical, Chief of Editorial Operations, Automotive News

This conversation was originally broadcast on October 8, 2020, as the first of five conversations in the Fixed Ops Journal Forum series.

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