The 2021 Nissan Rogue has bombed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s front passenger-side crash test with a score of two stars. Since we’re not using the Michelin Guide, this is a stain on the freshly pressed slacks Nissan has put on as part of its all-important restructuring strategy.
The automaker has been shedding weight, dropping products, and losing employees in the name of profit. But it also has to restore public faith in a brand that has been caught in numerous quality control scandals and some ugly corporate infighting over the last few years. A crummy score on a crash test isn’t going to help, even if it does help spice up an otherwise bland vehicle segment. But let’s not overcook the eggs. There is a lot to unpack here before we jump on the bandwagon of calling it a cursed model.
Overlap crash tests are famously tough to do well on and there was a time when practically nobody did. We also know Nissan has the ability to perform better because the 2020 Rogue was awarded four stars by the NHTSA in the same test. And the organization still saw fit to award the 2021 model-year Rogue an average of four stars.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety similarly named it a “Top Safety Pick” after their team threw it at a few barriers. It even got top marks on the passenger-side small frontal overlap test while in their hands.
But that’s where the good news ends for Nissan. As the 2021 model’s only difference from the previous year is a revamped interior, it’s strange that the SUV (crossover) would have such a bad showing. This leads us to wonder if the issue isn’t related to quality control or perhaps some of its planned modifications to the passenger restraint system. Nissan’s statement on the matter seems to point to both as it makes mention of the date those changes occurred (January 28th) and the Kyushu plant in Kanda, Japan where the NHTSA test vehicle originated from.
Most North American Rogues come from Nissan’s facility in Smyrna, Tennessee, however. This could be a non-committal hint from the company that the Kyushu plant, which was one of the Japanese factories at the heart of its multi-year final inspection scandal, would not be serving up product for the market. Despite the test vehicles being built before the restraint changes, Nissan is planning to run a comprehensive investigation into the issue.
Here’s Nissan’s official statement:
Nissan is committed to vehicle safety and is pleased with the 2021 Nissan Rogue’s overall 4-star NCAP safety rating. All 2021 Rogue vehicles fully comply with federal safety standards.
Nissan is aware of the two-star NCAP rating for front-passenger safety for 2021 Rogue vehicles assembled at Nissan’s Kyushu, Japan, manufacturing facility prior to Jan. 28, 2021. Nissan applied an update to the front passenger restraint system on all 2021 Rogue vehicles assembled at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant, and all vehicles produced after Jan. 28 at the Kyushu plant. Therefore the two-star front-passenger safety rating only applies to the vehicles produced at the Kyushu plant prior to Jan. 28.
The front-passenger safety systems in the vehicles that received the update have yet to be tested by NHTSA. An additional test of the 2021 Rogue is scheduled with results expected in May.