If you had to see the Nissan ad for either the X-Trail or Rogue the two main features that are really spelled out (as if they’re the very reason you should drive either of these) are All Mode 4x4i and Xtronic CVT transmission. You would expect the 4x4i to be standard across trims, right? It is not. But Available.
In fact, Nissan has (and I should from here speak of two as one; one they are) stretched the wheelbase of the Rogue (which is the name I’m sticking with from this point onward) by enough millimeters to allow a third-row seat configuration, because, according to Nissan, this “car” is for the active family. Active family.
Wherever that active family may live – on Victoria Island, Lagos or in Okene, Kogi – Nissan promises that one Rogue can handle all the trails it may encounter. Just one Rogue. But, is that really so? Just Jigged today questions Nissan’s apparently baseless badge “engineering” (engineering?).
You notice I just said “baseless” a moment ago? Hear me out. At the outset of this piece I present a picture of the 2014 Nissan Rogue. OK, here I’m going to reverse the position of the 2014 Nissan X-Trail, in case, this helps to make them different.
Can you spot any difference? Except that they’re headed in opposite directions now. None. It’s same inside, underbelly, under-the-hood, and behind.
When in 1926, Nash Motors was to discontinue production of their Ajax brand just after over 20,000 Ajax models had been sold under the Ajax brand name during its inaugural year, Charles Nash, the Chairman and CEO of the company ensured that all unshipped Ajax models were badged “Nash” to reflect the already respected brand name of the company’s. Nash badges, emblems, hubcaps, radiator shells, etc were placed on the Ajax cars; and conversion kits were distributed to all Ajax owners at no extra charge to make their “old” cars become the current and more respected brand. “New” cars. These satisfied former owners of Ajax now loved their new Nash cars. In the end there were no more Ajax models in the market, at least as far as the eyes could see and senses discern. All Ajax models had been badge-engineered (re-badged) to Nash. New cars without new engineering. All remaining Ajax models sold, marketed under the Nash brand name. Excellent. Customer-pleased marketing.
We know they were driving Ajax, right? But, we would see Nash instead, and had to agree these were Nash small cars! Purposeful badge engineering.
Was the X-Trail losing identity? Or the Rogue?
Let’s take a modern-day example now and we come to Nissan. Here’s a sportscar I really love – affordable fun. Sexy! Welcome the Nissan 370z Nismo! Nismo is Nissan’s motorsports and Performance division. It looks like for every Nissan car there’s a Nismo equivalent, tuned to be suitable for actual racing or just the everyday notion/feeling of sportiness we love to have driving a car.
But, look at the sexy little Nissan 370z. With the same engine and body, but with some cosmetic changes and enhancements we have another car, or brand – the 370z Nismo. Really, this is fitting, and I should show you that the additions warrant a re-branding, because, as much as they look alike, they become different cars with variances in Performance, with the winning going, of course, to the Nismo. 370z. Even as they continue with the same stock Nissan emblem.
If you compared these two cars the enhancements are obvious – spoilers and rocker panel extensions, wing mirrors on the 370z Nismo get a dark-gray painting with reddish pin striping around them; there’s a fixed rear wing on the Nismo; it’s 6 inches longer than the regular 370z; the suspension dampers are stiffer; the brakes are bigger; the exhaust outlets are sized like a pair of cannons ready to fire, which bumps horsepower by 18. Turbulence be ready! And beyond the obvious, Nissan claims that there’s a Performance tweak on the ECU of the Nismo that adds to this bump in Performance. I agree. The 370z Nismo is the bad-ass. You get?
AMG does a similar thing but to Mercedes-Benz engines. And you pay a lot more whenever it says AMG, for example, the Mercedes-Benz SLS Black Series,… AMG!
Brings us back to Nissan again. This time, the X-Trail. And the Rogue. When the Rogue debuted in 2007 for the 2008 MY it was decidedly a North American version of the European-designed Qashqai (awkward name for an awkward-styled car), which was also badged Dualis (more awkwardness) in Japan and Australia, as if the confusion were not enough yet, in the same most fiercely competed but most confused compact crossover segment. And market. Think of the Hyundai IX-35 and Tuscon at the same time. Cain and Abel. Or, no Cain and Cane. Twin brothers fighting in one market for but one love! At the time these two cars – the X-Trail and Rogue – shared the same platform, so we could say “platform-sharing engineering,” but were styled differently. At least we had two different cars that could legitimately go with two different names and could legitimately be two different brands under one parent brand. Although, as to that they were only apparently two different models under one Nissan brand. Were they? Yes, as far as styling went. But, now?
Go to Nissan and get the brochures of both the X-Trail and Rogue and place them side by side. Or, you could do that at Nissanusa.com. Two cars or one?
Why did Nissan do it? Well, they’ve always been the same, why not to make them identical at once? Absolutely!
Efficient. Great business idea. Make one car and give it two different names and sell them in “two different” markets. Claim you have two different cars. And, remain one 360-degree global brand.
How’s that affect you? If you asked me, if the X-Trail, or Qashqai, or Dualis, or Rogue, or Whatchamacallit, had any brand (or model) significance, and I was driving it, this latest watering down is enough for me to drop it like a hot piece of ungainly metal. Period.