By on February 10, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue SL - Image: Nissan

In January 2017, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.

In calendar year 2016, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Honda CR-V.

But in December 2016 and the preceding three months, the best-selling SUV/crossover in America was the Nissan Rogue, sales of which rose to record November levels in 2016, record January levels last month, and all-time record levels of 40,477 units in December 2016.

Not the most powerful, refined, reliable, or dynamically competent, the Rogue is nevertheless Nissan’s most popular vehicle in America and a hugely consequential member of the SUV sector.

Yet the sheriff in town is wearing a new uniform, the Rogue is about to be joined by a new sibling, and 2017 is the second-generation Rogue’s fourth model year. Can Nissan continue to grow U.S. Rogue sales by more than 17 percent per month, and can Nissan make the Rogue America’s top-selling utility vehicle on a consistent basis?

Nissan is certainly giving it a shot. Nissan’s PR department declined when asked to comment on expectations for year-end volume in 2017, but it noted the Rogue’s start to the year as America’s second-ranked utility vehicle, only 500 units behind the Honda CR-V.

“We have three plants producing the Rogue now to meet the continue demand in this growing segment,” Nissan’s Josh Clifton, senior manager for corporate communications, told TTAC last week.

Nissan builds the Rogue in Smyrna, Tennessee, and also imports Rogues from Kyushu, Japan, and a Renault-Samsung plant in Busan, South Korea.

FLEET OF FOOT
Of course, a comparison with the CR-V isn’t precisely apples-to-apples. While Honda shies away from selling vehicles to fleet, Nissan sold 19 percent of its vehicles to fleet buyers in 2016, according to Automotive News, up from 15 percent one year before. While Nissan’s retail demand was flat in 2016, the company’s fleet volume shot up 37 percent.

Nissan declined to comment on the Rogue’s fleet/retail mix. Granted, it was always Nissan’s intention to boost market share by enhancing its fleet volume.

In 2015, after being harshly critiqued by American Honda’s executive vice president John Mendel, Nissan North America boss Jose Munoz said, “Of course, we need to be active in fleet. In fleet, you have a lot of subsegments.” At that point, Munoz said that profitable commercial fleet sales were growing while Nissan’s sales to daily rental fleets were in decline.

Nearly a year later, however, Nissan’s Josh Clifton told Automotive News the company was not straying from its strategy of maintaining a “healthy balance.” He noted, “We expect our fleet delivery curve to flatten back to our normal running rate of 16-17 percent for the full calendar year.” Based on Automotive News’ reports, the curve did not flatten back.

UNDERCUT
The degree to which these overarching figures pertain to the Rogue, which operates in a high-demand category at an attractive price point, is not fully known. The 2017 Nissan Rogue SV Hybrid AWD, for example, has a base price of $28,530 including destination and handling, but Nissan is currently offering a $1,500 discount.

That undercuts the 2017 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid by more than $2,000.

Clifton told TTAC, “While we don’t discuss specifics on incentives, we remain comparable to the industry in the segment.”

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport - Image: Nissan

QASHCOW
Perhaps the vehicle that can put the most pressure on the Rogue isn’t the CR-V, RAV4, Escape, or Equinox but rather a new-to-America Nissan.

Clearly believing in the strength of the Rogue name, the Qashqai will be called the Rogue Sport when it arrives in the United States. Smaller than the Rogue but bigger than the Juke, could the Rogue Sport cannibalize Rogue sales? Nissan doesn’t think so.

“We think Rogue Sport is a different buyer and we believe the Rogue Sport will attract new customers — especially city-dwelling younger buyers — with its sporty appearance and state-of-the-art technology,” Nissan’s Clifton told TTAC.

On its own, the Rogue is already generating more than half of Nissan’s light truck volume and roughly three-in-ten overall Nissan sales. In January, the Rogue generated more sales than the Altima and Versa combined, America’s third-best-selling midsize car and top-selling subcompact car, respectively. Year-over-year, monthly Rogue volume has risen in 17 of the last 18 months. Annual volume has risen every year since the nameplate was launched in 2007.

Regardless of the means Nissan employs to stir up such significant, consistent growth, the Rogue Sport will have to be pretty special to slow the Rogue down.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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37 Comments on “Nissan Rogue Sales Are Exploding, And Nissan Doesn’t Think The Rogue Sport Will Slow It Down...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Rogues can explode, all right…ask Jyn Erso.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    The Qasqai and the new Compass are essentially carving out a new “tweener” segment between the subcompact CUV (Juke, Renegade, HR-V etc) and the compact CUV (Rogue, Cherokee, Escape, CR-V, etc). I’m not sure it’s a nessessary carve-out (particularly when GM doesn’t even bother with seperate compact and midsize CUVs), but I bet we see a few other nameplates try to cram something in there.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m not sure how much trust I would put in Nissan compared to Honda & Toyota, but to my eyes, it’s not hard to see why these are selling so well.

    For one thing, besides money on the hood, they look much nicer and seem to offer a more engaging driving experience, true or not – I have ridden in one but never got behind the wheel. In any event, it’s an alternative to Toyondas.

    A smaller Rogue? Well, I hope it replaces the awful, cramped looking Juke.

    • 0 avatar

      TBH, the Rogue is a better driver than the CRV, but the CRV is a better all-rounder, hence why we went with it.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        I agree. However, it drove large for its size compared to the CRV. We ended up with a Mazda CX5 as the CRV was in close second. The problem with the CRV was that I couldn’t get the passenger seat back far enough to be comfortable on longer trips, as this was going to be my other half’s vehicle.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Looking at the doctored up stock photo, I genuinely wonder how well the Rogue could do on a sandy beach. They do still put a ‘lock’ switch on the viscous coupling at lower speeds, and the Rogue seems to have retained a reasonable amount of clearance. With aired down tires, perhaps it would do okay-ish. Just make sure to bring a tow strap before trying such an experiment!

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      Probably no place to hook a tow strap to.

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      No one is buying these to go on a sandy beach, or to do any sort of off-roading. High riding, somewhat more capable snowy day vehicle, period.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I like to take road trips to the OBX, and if I were able to do all that highway driving in a comfy car-like vehicle that got close to 30mpg highway, but still allowed me to drive out onto the sand without worrying about immediately getting stuck, that would be awesome. I realize this is a rather niche type of situation, but I’m genuinely curious how the Rogue would do. Airing down the tires is honestly the biggest help. I’d like to think that an Outback/Forester would do well.

  • avatar
    bkojote

    Secret to the Rogue’s success:

    1) Isn’t deficient in any category.

    2) Nicer interior than the CR-V or Rav4

    3) Decent looking

    My family had a CR-V and quickly ended up hating it due to the dumbest of reasons that they thought wouldn’t bug them at the time they signed on the dotted line – no volume knob on the radio, and an awful infotainment setup. Everything else about it was ‘fine’ , but that one detail really soured the car for them.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      Good points, but they don’t fully explain the Rogue’s success. These good points apply to the current (second) generation. But the first generation was pretty lousy to drive, the interior was not special in any way, and it was not good looking outside. Yet Nissan still sold a lot of them, and sales were climbing even before the second generation came out. The sales numbers have taken a big jump in the second generation, which I attribute mostly to the styling.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Boggles my mind that Nissan can offer vehicles that are praised by pretty well no one and still sell so many. I guess they don’t really have any glaring errors to the majority non-enthusiast crowd so they retain their existing customers well. New customers must be driven by price. Perhaps people still regard the Korean names as lower status and therefore are attracted to Nissan prices?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “praised by pretty well no one”

      The Rogue is rather well regarded by reviewers, fighting it out for top honors in comparison tests.

      Yes I think at the end of the day price is a major motivating factor, but I would add to that comfortable seats (more so than CRV or Rav4), and a ride that trends towards the softer side within the compact CUV class. EPA sticker ratings are also some of the higher ones in the class.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        Fighting for top honors in WHAT comparison tests? You’ve gotta be kidding. The only thing the Rogue has going for it is decent ride quality. It’s still noisy and sloppy to drive, not to mention a worst-in-class CVT. They’re selling a ton due to incentives and fleet sales, the end.

  • avatar
    threeer

    I can firsthand attest to Nissan’s “fleet” mentality. Just got back from St. Louis and rented from Thrifty. It looked like a Nissan dealership! Wound up with a Nissan Versa sedan. Sure, it’s roomy…but jeez…not much else I could say about it. Haven’t looked at anything from Nissan in forever. Are they selling on price more than anything else these days? I guess their cars are for people who really don’t care about cars (I ask this honestly and not to offend anybody here who has recently bought one!).

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I was in Denver a few months ago. Rented a Mazda 3 but the lot at Enterprise was stuffed with Altimas, Sentras. They had plenty to choose from, but literally every other car seemed like a Nissan.

      I have owned a few Nissans, leased I should say. Pathfinder and Maxima. Personally I don’t think Nissan’s are any more or less desirable than a Toyota, Ford, Honda, Chevy, etc. Its right in there as far as I am concerned. But in my experience, Nissan dealers are aggressive with price, much moreso than any other manufacturer I have ever bought/leased from. That is why I have ended up in a few Nissans, you like the car, maybe aren’t sold on it, but then walk into a dealership and get an offer you really cannot refuse. Not ashamed to say that I can be persuaded with cash :)

  • avatar
    carlokiii

    Don’t get fooled with that Nissan badge… the Rogue is actually a very competitive offering in its segment, and even the best in some aspects.

    Yes, Nissan currently has some turds in its lineup in the Versa, Sentra, and to some extent, the Altima. Its trucks are depressing. The Pathfinder is downright offensive.

    However, the Rogue, Murano, Qashqai, and the Maxima are stellar products. Add the generous sale tactics, I am not surprised the Rogue is going toe-to-toe with the CR-V and the Rav4.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      ” Its trucks are depressing”

      Quite frankly the Frontier is my favorite midsizer, specifically for its “outdated” unapologetic truckiness. Strong (thirsty) VQ40 motor, logical trim packaging, reasonable prices.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Nissan is not in the same league as Toyota and Honda. Their reliability proves it. They are in the second tier of manufacturers IMO

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      That’s not just your opinion; it is a universally-known fact that Nissan has always been in the second tier of Japanese manufacturers.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @higher: if universally known, then please cite the sources, there must be a great many. This is particularly useful since Datsun/Nissan entered the US market a full decade before Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Eh… I’ve had probably over 100K trouble free miles in various used Nissans, the last of which I sold with nearly 200K miles. They might not be Honda/Toyota reliable but they are still pretty good, and better value used IMO.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Rogues are discount queens. They’re all marked down. And to credit-impaired buyers.

    Honda CRV’s, not so much. Some people are willing to pay for the better vehicle. I do know one person who got the Nissan because Honda refused to offer a discount however.

    Besides, LT, with Honda’s better resale, the CRV is an even wiser choice.

  • avatar
    AK

    Test drove one of these for a family member.

    Horrendous engine and transmission and nothing else about it could redeem it from that.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    never underestimate the power of the Force.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    The secret to the Rogue’s success? If you resign yourself to driving a breadbox it might as well be one with some style (and a good price).

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    It’d be interesting in a few years to compare how the models from three different production countries are faring from a build quality standpoint.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Honda does it currently for the CRV. In my case I own a 2008 CRV. It was built in Japan, Mexico, United States, and possibly England. Whenever I need to get parts at the dealer I have to specify Japan built. They all look identical, but there are some subtle differences.

  • avatar
    Shockrave Flash Has Crashed

    I’m certainly put off by the name.

  • avatar
    Rday

    THE comparison between a Rogue and a Rav hybrid is a non starter. There are no real similarities between the two. Completely different machines.


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