Canadian dealers and analysts are praising the long-awaited redesign of the Rogue, saying the newest version of Nissan’s top-selling model is hitting a market devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic at just the right time.
“We expect to see the 2021 Rogue immediately jump to the No. 1-selling vehicle in its class as soon as it arrives on our lot in the fall,” said Nick Guffei, general manager of Vickar Nissan in Winnipeg.
A bold prediction, given the number of competitors in the compact-crossover segment and the fact that Rogue sales in 2019 (37,530) trailed the Toyota RAV4 (65,248), the Honda CR-V (55,859) and the Ford Escape (39,503).
“There are a lot of fish in that pond,” J.D. Power’s Robert Karwel said of the segment. “And having a fresh Rogue now is of critical importance to Nissan and especially to Nissan Canada.”
The 2021 Rogue, the first redesign since 2014, is scheduled to reach dealers this fall. It has been Nissan’s sales darling in Canada and the No. 1 brand nameplate since 2012, selling 312,562 models since its introduction in 2007. In 2019, Nissan sold 37,530 Rogues, compared with 41,167 in 2018, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit.
Overall, Nissan’s Canadian sales totaled 134,729 in 2019, down 9.6 per cent in a market that fell 3.6 per cent.
NO ‘BAR-OF-SOAP LOOK’
Nissan has made all the right moves with the new Rogue, said Karwel, senior manager of the Power Information Network at J.D. Power in Canada. Its bolder style reflects market trends, helping the compact crossover compete with key competitors including the newfor-2019 Toyota RAV4, which had its best year of sales at 65,248.
“It incorporates some of the other trends we see in the segment — a little more beefy in styling, accentuating the utility aspect, moving away from the bar-of-soap look,” Karwel said. “We see this in the redesigned Toyota RAV4 that’s doing quite well.”
An upgraded interior marks a move toward offering a more premium vehicle experience in a mainstream model.
“The new Rogue, when people see it on the outside, they’ll think it’s a very nice vehicle,” said Steve Milette, president of Nissan Canada. “But once they get inside, they’ll know this is premium.”
New materials, a new design and a larger digital display all represent improvements from the outgoing model.
The redesign puts the Rogue on the right track, said Brian Murphy, vice-president of research and analytics at Canadian Black Book.
“The first thing I noticed was the interior. It looks quite good,” Murphy said. “That’s where people spend all their time, so it’s really important.”
The new design improves aerodynamics by five per cent and a revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 10 per cent more output (181 horsepower) is mated to a revised Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Those revisions, plus a 40-kilogram drop in weight, improve acceleration and fuel economy, said Scott Pak, Nissan Canada’s senior manager of product planning.
A simplified lineup was a response to dealer requests, said Nissan.
Cutting the available trims to six from eight “helps with inventory and it also diminishes confusion among customers,” said Ilya Pinassi, vice president of operations at Parkway Motors, a Hamilton, Ont., Nissan dealer.
Karwel said simplifying lineups also reduces the potential to disappoint a customer who configures a specific model online, only to find it’s unavailable in the store.
Pinassi said he was excited about the new Rogue.
“I think the new lines are a lot more striking, more pronounced and will appeal to new buyers without alienating previous customers.”
Nissan’s global challenges — its sales slump, its former president an international fugitive, his successor fired for financial irregularities — shouldn’t have much effect on the Canadian market, Karwel said. “The Canadian sales office knows the task at hand,” he said. “They want to move with their best foot forward.”
Milette said Canada will be a major beneficiary of Nissan’s global recovery efforts, which have “identified North America as a key market mov ing forward.”
That focus is also helping Nissan Canada’s plans to release 10 new products over the next 20 months. Aside fro the Versa subcompact, Sentra compact sedan and Rogue, the next model due is a new Frontier midsize pickup.
Nissan’s new focus on the quality of sales over quantity — reducing reliance on fleet sales, for example — is boosting residual values, Milette said. That makes for competitive lease payments and it boosts consumer confidence in the company’s products.
Those efforts are paying of said Murphy, with Canadian Black Book forecasting “a significant bump” in residual values for the 2020 Rogue.
Relying too heavily on sales into rental fleets dilutes future resale values, Murphy said, as the models sold today will flood the used market in about 18 months as rental companies se their fleets to buy new.