NASHVILLE — The hot-selling Rogue made Nissan history in 2017, becoming the brand's first nameplate to top 400,000 U.S. sales in a calendar year.
The compact crossover posted 2017 sales of 403,465, up 22 percent from 2016.
It was one of just two nonpickups that surpassed 400,000 sales last year. Toyota's RAV4, also a compact crossover, sold 407,594, up 16 percent from 2016.
Both performances are remarkable because — according to industry consultants and analysts in the past decade — the days of selling more than 250,000 or 300,000 of a single nameplate in a year are supposed to be over.
The conventional wisdom has been that automakers must be profitable at 50,000 to 75,000 annual sales of a given nameplate.
The Rogue and RAV4 indicate otherwise.
Nissan's crossover has been a tale of surprises since it appeared in late 2007 as a 2008 model. Nissan was a relatively late entry into the compact crossover category. The RAV4, along with the Honda CR-V, appeared to have the segment locked up. But in 2011, Nissan decided it could be more competitive if it built the Rogue in a U.S. factory instead of importing the vehicle from Japan.
Nissan added enough capacity in Smyrna, Tenn., to produce 100,000 Rogues a year for its U.S. retailers. That was roughly the number Nissan was selling in the U.S., and still only half the number of CR-Vs Honda was selling.
But Nissan quickly realized it had underestimated the segment and the nameplate, and boosted its plant investment to accommodate 150,000 to 180,000 Rogues a year.
That wasn't enough either. As sales demand reached 200,000 a year, Nissan arranged in 2013 to build additional Rogues at a Renault-owned plant in South Korea for U.S. sales. In 2015, that source also had to be expanded to ship more Rogues.
Nor was that enough. Nissan then turned to a third assembly plant in Japan to make Rogues for the U.S. And last year, Nissan introduced a second version of the nameplate, the Rogue Sport, also imported from Japan, to feed the fire.
The results? A surprise to Nissan. A surprise to the industry. And a surprise to analysts who thought big-volume nameplates were a thing of the past.