More than four years after launching its Leaf electric car, Nissan is by far the leading maker of electric vehicles globally.
In hybrids, however, it was late to the game and has struggled to package products that will prove compelling to North American buyers.
Its announcement this week that it would start selling a hybrid model of the Nissan Rogue compact crossover utility vehicle in Japan highlights the challenges it faces.
DON'T MISS: Nissan Will Add Murano Hybrid, Rogue Hybrid In 2015 Or So (Aug 2013)
Sold in Asia and Europe, the Nissan X-Trail is fundamentally the same vehicle as the Rogue sold in North America, with regional differences in powertrains and features.
The X-Trail Hybrid that goes on sale in Japan on May 13 uses a version of the transverse single-motor hybrid system already sold here in the larger Pathfinder and the luxury Infiniti QX60 (nee JX) SUVs.
Paired to a 145-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission, the electric motor produces a peak power of 30 kilowatts (40 hp), roughly double than the 15 kW (20 hp) 25 kW (34 hp) in the hybrid Pathfinder.
2015 Nissan Rogue
The hybrid X-Trail also features underbody shields to cut aerodynamic drag, low-rolling-resistance tires, special badges, and various other modifications.
By meeting 2020 emissions regulations, it qualifies for Japan's hybrid tax exemption, a crucial feature for sales success in that country.
In August 2013, a Nissan executive who's since retired told Green Car Reports that the company would follow the new 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid with hybrid versions of the Rogue (new for 2015) and Murano (new for 2016) crossover utilities.
Twenty months later, we reached out to Nissan for answers to the following questions:
- Any update on the Pathfinder Hybrid for the missing model year of 2015?
- Will Pathfinder Hybrid continue in the range for 2016 after skipping the 2015 year?
- Will the Rogue/X-Trail Hybrid be added to North America's Nissan ranges for 2016 or later?
2015 Nissan Murano
Brian Brockman, senior manager for corporate communications at Nissan North America, provided a suitably corporate non-response to our questions.
The company has "no additional update on Pathfinder Hybrid," he wrote.
"As for model year 2016 for the Pathfinder Hybrid, Rogue Hybrid, or Murano Hybrid, we have made no announcements."
MORE: 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid: Gas Mileage Test Disappointing (Feb 2014)
"Therefore," he concluded, "I can’t provide comment on the future product plan."
In other words, stay tuned. (But, we might add, we'd advise against holding your breath in this period of low gasoline prices.)
Our take: We're not expecting Nissan to launch any new hybrid models for the 2016 model year.