Could the important compact crossover segment be the place that Nissan finally takes the U.S. sales lead?
With little fanfare, the 2017 Nissan Rogue has risen to the top of the sales heap in compact crossovers. There is no more important segment right now for automakers to do well in, and this success by Nissan may surpass the importance of Toyota’s lead in midsize cars with its Camry, or Ford’s lead in trucks with the F-150.
Compact Crossover Sales Leaders For 2017
With sales of 39,512 units in March, the Rogue easily beat the runners-up, Honda CR-V (32,872), the Toyota RAV4 (32,027) and the Ford Escape (28,113). With first quarter sales of over 100,000 Rogues, Nissan is also the runaway leader for the calendar year.
Vehicle Sales Trends – Compact Crossovers Top Sellers Now
Compact crossovers are the most popular vehicles in America since sedans jumped the shark last year. The most recent news on these new family vehicles is that they have passed trucks in overall sales. We first heard that from General Motors, so we will call it a fact since GM’s sales are heavily skewed toward trucks. GM’s four truck models are all down by double-digit percentages this year, and the company is focused on new compact crossovers to fill that gap. Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations commented on this, saying, “More people are working, consumer confidence is at a 16-year high, fuel prices are low and Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac have a wave of new crossovers to compete in the industry’s biggest and hottest segments.”
2017 Nissan Rogue Changes
One significant thing that Nissan has done differently than its competitors is to add back the optional third-row seating in this size vehicle. We auto writers share part of the blame for the demise of pop-up jump seats in these vehicles. Dimwit journalists who report that the third row in a vehicle they test is “Tight, cramped, and no place for adults” miss the point of these part-time kid seats entirely. They were never meant for adults, were never meant for long trips, or frequent use, but are super helpful to families that want to carpool kids to soccer, school, or anyplace families bring their own kids and a couple neighbor kids along in tow.
Nissan’s Rogue now looks very similar to the Murano, and that is no accident. Nissan has merged the looks of its crossover fleet, rather than highlight the more expensive models in some way to make those more special. Inside, the Rogue is also a surprisingly comfortable place. This may be because Nissan does not have a premium brand equivalent of the Rogue that it needs to leave room for. Both Toyota’s RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V are excellent, but having tested them, we find it obvious that Toyota and Honda held back a bit to make space for the Lexus NX 200t and Acura RDX to be just a smidge better.
Nissan has also resisted the urge to make the Rogue a race car. Powerful engines are not as important in this segment as is fuel economy to the bulk of buyers and Nissan’s early switch to the constantly variable transmission was controversial when it happened. However, now all automakers are trending this way and Nissan was one of the first to learn how to make these fuel-saving, smooth shifting automatics work perfectly for owners.
2017 Nissan Rogue Star Wars Promotion
Being car nuts, we’d like to think that the Rogue’s success was all due to the product, but we aren’t so sure. The tie-in of the Rogue to Star Wars’ “Rogue One” is simply obvious and simply genius. Nissan’s movie promotions are working, and working well. And it is not just TV spots that are winning fans. Nissan won over journalists at auto shows this past winter with the chance for them to sleep under a huge Death Star. Movie fans across the country were hosted at special screenings of Rogue One sponsored by Nissan. The program’s success is not in question.
What’s Next for Rogue?
Automakers with hugely successful models face an interesting conundrum. It is often hard to go up from number one. To find more buyers, Toyota created the RAV4 Hybrid AWD. It is now selling at a pace of about 4,500 units per month. That may not sound like much after having read the bigger numbers in our opening paragraph, but consider this; Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid AWD outsells every electric vehicle in America and outsells both Tesla models combined. Clearly, the compact crossover segment needs more green options and Nissan is stepping in to share that space with Toyota. The new Nissan Rogue Hybrid was a hit at a recent New England Motor Press event. It’s refreshing to see an automaker make a smart move towards an emerging market with a successful model rather than add a bigger engine, landau roof and fine Corinthian leather to try to chase old trends that are out of synch with modern family vehicle priorities.