Nissan targets a different kind of Rogue buyer

on Jun3

Nissan aims the Rogue Sport at buyers who wish the Rogue were a bit smaller.

NASHVILLE — The 2017 Rogue Sport now reaching Nissan showrooms may look nearly identical to the brand’s volume-leading Rogue cross-over. Built on the same global platform as the Rogue, the Sport arrives with roughly the same shape, the same front and rear ends, the same chassis and most of the same parts.

But there is one big difference in how the new model will be presented: The Rogue is essentially for young families; the Rogue Sport will be pitched to singles and couples with no kids.

Selling vehicles never follows such cut-and-dried rules as that, of course. Consumers buy what they please. But Nissan believes the Sport fills a hole in its portfolio for shoppers who are attracted to the Rogue but just want it to be a bit more compact, with less cargo space and no need for a third row.

That difference has big implications for Nissan, says Aditya Jairaj, senior marketing manager for Rogue and Rogue Sport.

“We’ve got lofty targets for the Sport because there is a customer out there who hasn’t found the product they want yet,” Jairaj said. “We see customers in the market, shopping for a crossover but not buying one. The two main reasons why are the price is too high and the usual compact crossover is just too big.”

Nissan’s strategy is to reach into the large customer base of compact sedan intenders, wooing them into crossovers with a model that carries the popular Rogue name and look, but with only a modest decrease in size. Nissan has priced the Sport to compete on price with a sticker starting at $22,380, including shipping — $3,000 lower than the base price Rogue.

Another key difference between the Rogue models are the engines. Built in Japan, where it is marketed as the Qashqai, the Sport arrives with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, promising 141 hp. The Rogue engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 hp.

Despite the difference in displacement and horsepower, the Sport delivers a crisp acceleration, aided by a retuned continuously variable transmission and the fact that it is 214 pounds lighter than the Rogue. The Sport is a tad short on power when it comes to highway cruising. But the pairing of the CVT with a chassis that has been tuned for a sportier ride creates a feeling of nimble handling to maneuver in urban driving.

Nissan intends to focus on urban customers with the Sport — precisely the demographic of young, single or newly married who might be living in a downtown environment, Jairaj said.

Those are potential owners who will appreciate the fact that the Sport is a full foot shorter than the Rogue, he said.

“That foot in length means a lot when it’s the difference between fitting into a parking space or not,” he said.

In styling, the Sport is barely distinguishable from the more established Rogue — one of the only differences being the fog lights. But that will be a benefit in attracting buyers, Nissan believes.

The company has been lavishing attention on marketing the Rogue for the past year. Late last year, its advertising linked up with the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to huge results. The campaign helped lift Rogue sales above 40,000 units a month temporarily, making the crossover the industry’s best-selling nameplate, other than full-size pickups.

Nissan is confident that it has struck gold with the Rogue. It believes other consumers would like to buy one, if it was just a bit smaller and less expensive — which is precisely where the new Sport comes in.

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