I thought what I was reading was possibly ... bogus. If it had been April 3rd instead of June 3rd, I’d have been pretty certain somebody was attempting to snooker me. The article was published on Jalopnik.com, a site for fans of high-performance automobiles with occasional pieces about mainstream auto marketing, fast fighter planes, dumb drivers and generally hoonish fun with cars.
Since the article’s author, Doug DeMuro, has been known to add a dash of silliness to his writing (he's a former manager with Porsche Cars North America), I thought it likely that his claim of Nissan selling two versions of its popular Rogue SUV at the same time might have been written with a sly wink.
DeMuro cited a press briefing in Nashville some two years ago during which a Nissan exec casually mentioned that “Oh by the way, we’re not cancelling the old Rogue. We’re just going to keep it around and sell it to people on a tighter budget.”
He’d never heard of anything like that. Nor had I, which is why his Jalopnik article at first seemed like a put-on.
So I called an old friend at the local Nissan store, who confirmed that it was indeed true that Nissan had two different Rogues for sale. I checked out the dealer’s web site to see this new car novelty for myself. And there they were, the current Rouge and the previous model (now called Rogue Select) offered side by side. And both were selling quite briskly, thank you! In fact, Rogue was the 14th best-selling vehicle in the country during May (presumably both models together).
DeMuro further piqued my curiosity by mentioning a similar marketing strategy over at Nissan’s high-line Infiniti brand. Sure enough, the strong selling, long running G37 four-door has been renamed the Q40 and is being offered for less money (with attractive lease terms) alongside its eventual replacement, the Q50, a kissin’-cousin of a car outfitted with more advanced cabin style and electronics as well as a small increase in horsepower .
During our conversation, my friend and I swapped stories about times when arrival of the new models used to be a big deal. My dad worked at a Dodge-Plymouth dealership, and we got to see the new cars before the public did, which was a great coup for us kids. Nowadays, however, the new models arrive largely without fanfare – so much so, apparently, that Nissan has slipped two new cars into the marketplace while keeping the old model around for a while and giving it a nameplate switcheroo – with a similar strategy at Infiniti.
There have been other examples of car companies selling last year’s model after the new ones have been launched. The 2013 Chevy Impala remains available to fleet buyers through this year, apparently to keep Chevrolet’s sales to rental car companies cranked without diminishing appeal (or resale value) of the much improved 2014-15 Impala.
I can see the sense in what Chevy is doing, but I truly must admire Nissan’s play! Not only does the company save money, because much of the Rogue Select tooling has long been paid for, but car buyers get more choice. People who don’t want to pay something like $3,000 more for the “regular” Rogue – and would prefer not to buy used – now have another option.
Will this less-is-more strategy migrate to other car brands? I hope so, because it makes good marketing sense from the perspective of both buyer and seller.
Perhaps some day in the not too distant future we’ll be able to purchase not only last year’s car brand new but also models from two or three iterations back – improved in performance and safety but looking essentially the same. DeMuro suggests bringing back an Acura favorite, the Integra coupe, discontinued in 2006. My son certainly would agree after driving one quite enthusiastically until a new baby in the family dictated not only their move to a roomier (and considerably older and safer) four-door Mercedes.
Should the marketing savvy Nissan is exhibiting today spread to other auto brands, perhaps not too far down the road we’ll find ourselves having taken a much-needed stop toward eliminating planned obsolescence altogether.
TakeAway: What's old can also be new in today's marketing world.
(To see a “new” old Mustang, see my post, Experience Mustang -- All Over Again: http://www.brianefaulkner.com/blog/experience-mustang-all-over-again
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner