SUVs and crossover vehicles are selling better than they ever have, but the Nissan Rogue is an uncommon success story even at a time of ascendance for its category. U.S. sales of Nissan’s highest-volume vehicle by far were up by 15 percent in 2016 over 2015 and are ahead another 23 percent for 2017 to date.
Part of the credit goes to Nissan’s introduction last summer of a Rogue Sport model to the rest of the Rogue lineup. But most of Rogue’s impressive gains came before that addition, thanks to product innovation and design coupled with savvy marketing efforts including a limited edition model that tied into the release of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story movie last November.
Rogue has carried uncommonly high levels of consumer financial incentives, and Nissan has promoted base versions of the vehicle heavily to rental fleets, helping drive sales of lower-profit units. Sometimes brands fear long-term damage to nameplates from such practices, but all those sales represent more “share of road” for Rogue.
When it was introduced a decade ago, Rogue was not positioned as a sexy model. It was a workhorse, high-volume vehicle, one that didn’t seem to be a candidate for the kind of lofty perch it enjoys today.
With 1.8 million units sold over its 1o-year history, Nissan Rogue today not only is the brand’s top-selling vehicle in America—by about half in volume over the next most popular model, the Altima mid-size sedan—but also the compact Rogue is America’s No. 2-selling utility vehicle. It’s nearly on a level with No. 1 Toyota RAV4, and ahead of the Honda CR-V, as well as Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“There’s nothing a good product can’t do,” Aditya Jairaj, Nissan America’s senior marketing manager for marketing crossovers including Rogue and Rogue Sport, told brandchannel. “We have a great product that customers like. And the organization has been able to ride the shift by customer from preferring sedans to preferring SUVs. As customers want more and more Rogues, we’ve been able to provide them.”
Jairaj shared more about the Rogue’s growth and rise in stature in Nissan’s portfolio:
How has Nissan kept improving Rogue over the years to get to where it is today?
Well, we just announced that, in the 2018 model Rogue, we are launching ProPilot Assist, which can help drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead—all with a simple, two-button operation. It’s the foundation for the fully autonomous vehicles of the future.
We’re launching it first on our highest-selling product by volume. This is testimony to the fact that we are providing customers with features that really wow and enthrall them. This is a huge step for us. We could have launched ProPilot Assist on a smaller product and phased it in. But Rogue is so important to us that we launched it there.
We’ve also made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard across all Rogue trims for 2018. That’s a big feature.
Is continuing innovation part of the Rogue’s evolution?
It’s not the first time we’ve done this with Rogue. In model year 2017-and-a-half we made a bunch of other safety features standard on Rogue. You really don’t get these features standard with our competitors.
Beginning with the Model Year 2014 version, we made huge changes in Rogue’s looks. The new one has been a lot more bold and a lot more pronounced in exterior styling. For the 2017 model we also made some minor changes, and spent a good amount of money to make the car look even better. We saw big customer reactions to the second-generation styling. It was well-received by customers.
How has marketing helped differentiate Rogue?
The recall of the nameplate is nascent. We’ve taken several actions to produce that. The most recent was our partnership with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. When we associated with that, it helped us create more awareness for the nameplate and it gave us a good reach. Last December we had the best December ever for Rogue sales, about 40,000 units, after the Rogue One campaign. Just because you have a campaign doesn’t mean you see a spike in sales, but this gave us recall and reach that we hadn’t had with customers.
Who are Rogue’s customers, demographically speaking?
A significant portion of our base is young parents, and to them technology is important. There’s a bit of a skew toward females—mothers with young kids—and the way the vehicle is specced out, you have just enough space for a couple of kids, and it fits their needs. Yet the ride is nice, peppy and with good torque.
What was the thinking behind introducing Rogue Sport in May?
It’s not just another trim, it’s an entire new vehicle—on the same platform, but targeting a different customer, who’s a little younger than the Rogue buyer, probably single, or young couples without kids, or maybe empty-nester.s With the advent of Sport, our sales numbers have gone up even more.
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