If you pay attention to the car business, you’ll quickly realize that there are many unique strategies out there. Porsche has performance cars. Jeep does SUVs. Hyundai has its warranty. And Acura sells boring versions of BMWs.
But perhaps the most unique strategy of all has been recently adopted by Nissan: selling old cars as new models. To help explain what I mean here, allow me to tell you about the Nissan Rogue.
About two years ago, I went on the press launch for the all-new Nissan Rogue down at Nissan’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, home to a.) Taylor Swift and b.) dozens of public relations professionals who keep Taylor Swift likable. This was an excellent event, and I was quite impressed with the Rogue, in the sense that they put me up in a very nice hotel and fed me a wonderful dinner.
So we’re at the morning press briefing, down there in Nashville, and they casually mention 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.
Wait. Did I hear that right? They’re going to keep selling the old model? Even though the new one is out? Really? So I looked at the journalist to my left, and we kind of snickered, and I looked at the journalist to my right, and he was asleep, and that’s sort of the last I thought about this for a while.
And then I started seeing these things on the road: the old Nissan Rogue, cruising around with temporary plates and a “ROGUE SELECT” badge on the back, even though the only thing SELECT about it is the fact that you’ve selected a vehicle designed before the emergence of Twitter.
This bothered me for a while. Initially, I wanted to roll down my window and yell at these people, and tell them they’ve made an enormous automotive mistake, akin to buying a Pinto, or a Gremlin, or a new Volkswagen at MSRP. But after a while, I began to realize something: this is actually a brilliant strategy.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you’re John Q. Autobuyer, and you really don’t give a shit about having the most recent tech features or the latest design. What you care about is, number one, getting your last name changed. But also, you’re desperate to buy a new car at the absolute lowest price humanly possible. You’re a total tightwad. You’re the type of guy who purchased nine thousand forever stamps in 2007, because you wanted to lock yourself into forty-one cents, and not an insane forty-four cents, for the rest of your life.
Well, guess what? Nissan has a car for you.
I say this because the Rogue Select isn’t just a little cheaper than the regular Rogue. At $21,035 after shipping, it’s actually almost three grand cheaper, which is a huge figure when you’re talking about cars that cost around twenty grand. And then there are incentives. On the normal Rogue: zero percent for 36 months. On the Rogue Select: four grand cash back if you shave off your eyebrows in the F&I office.
And here’s the thing: it’s not like you’re giving up that much. No, you don’t get all the latest tech and safety features that you can have in the new Rogue. And you don’t get third-row seating, or the updated interior, or the new body style. But you get the same engine, most of the same features, and the all-important new car warranty. This is a big deal, if you’re John Q. Auto Buyer. You only buy new cars. One time, you bought a used car, and the engine threw a rod through the firewall and it broke your femur.
Interestingly, the Rogue isn’t the only car where Nissan has decided to do this. Even though the old Infiniti G37 sedan is technically gone, you can still buy the thing as the Infiniti Q40 — at a discount of $3,200 compared to its replacement. Once again, you have the same engine, much of the same technology, and that new car warranty.
And here’s the kicker: this isn’t some fringe vehicle. This is Infiniti’s third best-selling car. In other words: the outgoing G37, which is now almost ten years old, which is no longer a new vehicle, which has already been replaced, actually outsells the vast majority of Infiniti’s current product lineup.
So I started thinking that maybe other automakers should jump on this train. For instance: a lot of car enthusiasts come up to me and tell me they like the E46 BMW 3 Series, which was sold from 1999 to 2005. Well, surely BMW still has the tooling for this thing laying around somewhere. Why not fire up the ol’ factory? Start churning out “new” E46s and sell them to the public for $14,999. A new BMW! For fifteen grand! With a cassette player!
Then you’d have two options, when it comes to buying an E46. You can buy a new one, directly from the factory, with zero miles and a new car warranty. Or you can buy a used one from a guy named Cliff, who describes the car as “flawless” even though there’s overspray on the windshield wipers.
And what about Acura? Everyone always laments how they’ve matured into this dull luxury brand with no more fun products. Well, maybe they could resurrect the old Integra! Get that thing back in production, with its lightweight body, and its bare-bones interior, and its surprisingly adept handling, and its cool hatchback style. They could list it for $9,999 plus tax. Call it the Integra Select. I’d select the heck out of that.
It sure beats selling boring versions of BMWs.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.