In with the new and the old? Nissan's Pierre Loing talks with us about the Rogue and the G37 / Q50
That flexibility is both in marketing and manufacture. Something Nissan is uniquely positioned to do, especially with these two models.
When the 2014 Nissan Rogue was announced, a quiet byline in the announcement and subsequent MSRP notes was that the previous-generation (2013) Rogue would be kept on board, being sold as the Rogue Select. Even quieter was the paragraph in the announcement for the 2014 Infiniti Q50 that its predecessor, the G37, would also be kept on board for 2014. This piqued our curiosity. We reached out to Nissan to find out more.
Our question put us on the phone with the person who is the top dog to talk to in regards to Nissan product planning and marketing, Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan. He explained to Torque News what was behind the idea behind keeping the old G37 and Rogue Select on showroom floors and why Nissan is in a particularly unique situation to be able to do so.
At first glance, it appears counter-intuitive to keep an old model around after a new one has been introduced, we opined to Loing. What could possibly be the reason? Branding? Excess inventory? The Rogue is all-new for 2014 and marketing has been heavy. So why keep the old one around too? The answer? Flexibility means value, Loing said:
"The reason to do it is slightly different. In the case of the Rogue, meaning the new  Rogue, it is being built in North America – Smyrna, [Tennessee] – and it's a significant improvement to the vehicle, it's completely in line with the major competitors matching their price, equipment, etc. The previous Rogue [2013 and earlier] used to come from Japan. So we saw this opportunity, since the vehicle is well-advertised now and is not made in the same factory as the new Rogue, to keep going for those customers who are extremely value-oriented. The new Rogue starts at roughly $22,000 dollars whereas the Rogue Select can be offered, based on what used to be the S-grade, or entry grade, we can offer this previous-generation Rogue at less than $20,000. We thought 'OK, we'll try that and we'll do it as a model year '14 and see where it takes us.'"
What's more, for the Rogue, which is a high-seller in Nissan's lineup, it also means better stability and thus better price controls which leads to lower prices overall. Again, thanks to flexibility in manufacture. Loing explains:
"It's very important now, I would think, because we control our own destiny [in North America]. The previous Rogue, being imported from Japan, would have some months where you win when the Yen was weak, but in the last few years, we've had a lot of headwinds and tailwinds in terms of the foreign exchange exposure. Because Rogue is the second-best-selling vehicle [in the U.S.], so the decision was made to localize [production of] it in North America. Therefore we have this opportunity to keep manufacturing the old model in Japan."
We specifically mentioned branding changes as being part of the impetus behind keeping the G37 around while offering the newly-branded Infiniti Q50. Loing agreed with that, somewhat, but there is more to it than just simple branding:
"As for the G37, you mentioned that, yes, the name is different, it's true, and the Q50 is positioned again like the 2014 Rogue at the heart of this premium midsize sedan market. We also see that at the lower end of this market, with competitors coming in with four cylinders, you have a part of this segment that's growing. We don't have two different factories, but we have an extremely flexible factory in Japan, Tochigi, offers manufacturing of the G37 alongside the Q50. A few years ago, we'd reduced the price of the G37 and also for limited choice, to be able to compete with the six-cylinder, well-proven vehicle, with competitors who offer only a four-cylinder at that price point."
Loing confirmed that this would apply only to the G37 sedan, not the coupe, when asked.
It's all about flexibility, Loing points out. "The main thing is we have very flexible manufacturing in Japanese manufacturing, so we have the opportunity to keep, maintain or extend the life of a previous model year in production. That allows us to supply broader coverage in their segments."
Finally, we asked whether this idea is something that we'll see done with future model upgrades. Loing was doubtful, but said that they are open to using it again if the circumstances that make it viable re-appear:
"This is not a principal, but is a case-by-case consideration and will probably remain an exception rather than the rule. When it happens within the time frame of a couple of months like we did here, it does not mean we're doing this as a rule, of course."
We at Torque News would like to thank Mr. Loing for taking the time to speak with us. So far, the fact that Nissan is keeping the Rogue Select and Infiniti G37 online despite their being updated seems to have escaped much of the automotive press. It's an unusual move that makes perfect sense given the unique and flexible position Nissan has found itself in.