Much is riding on the 2021 Nissan Rogue, expected to arrive in U.S. stores this fall. But its journey — through the terrain of a global pandemic — could be bumpy.
The redesigned Rogue compact crossover is scheduled to debut on June 15 as the linchpin of Nissan's plan to turn around its struggling U.S. business.
Nissan Division sales dove 30 percent in the first quarter, compared with a 12 percent slide for the industry. Chronic product discounting and a reliance on residual value-hurting fleet sales have dinged the brand's reputation, leaving dealers struggling to find customers.
The third-generation Rogue — the first of five new or redesigned Nissan models that will enter production in the next year — is being looked to as a way for the automaker to change the storyline.
But no one expected the plot twist of the COVID-19 pandemic upsetting business plans and consumer attitudes just as the Rogue arrives.
The prospect of a prolonged recession now additionally threatens Nissan's product offensive. J.D. Power's outlook for 2020 U.S. retail sales is 11.3 million to 12.5 million — a plunge of 1 million to 2 million sales from its pre-virus forecast of 13.4 million.
Some automakers are responding by delaying launches for key models until markets and consumer sentiment recover. General Motors has shifted three freshened 2021 Chevrolet models — the Equinox, Traverse and Bolt EV — to the 2022 model year.
Nissan does not have the luxury of time with the Rogue. The product was last redesigned in 2013 and last year generated nearly 30 percent of the brand's total sales.