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The early part of the last decade saw the emergence of crossover utility vehicles, which combined many popular characteristics of SUVs with the superior handling and fuel economy of station wagons. Nissan’s initial foray into the segment was marked by the Murano, which first went on sales in late 2002 and was subsequently nominated for the 2003 North American Truck of the Year award.

Nissan began selling its second-generation Murano in January 2008 – which also came in convertible form starting in 2011 as the Murano CrossCabriolet – but by then, many other crossover offerings had come to market as the CUV segment was one of the fastest-growing and most popular among consumers. With market share for the middle CUV segment gaining 1.9-percentage points between 2009 and 2013, competition in the segment intensified and the sales volumes enjoyed by the Murano in years past began to fade.

In an effort to remain competitive in the CUV market, Nissan debuted its third-generation model at the 2014 New York International Auto Show with a new dramatic and progressive look as well as technologies galore. The newest Murano needs to be better than ever, as the nameplate has become lost in the shuffle in recent years and doesn’t enjoy the same level of success it once did. By reviewing the outgoing model’s performance during its lifecycle we can gain perspective on how it currently fares against its competitors and the challenge faced by the new Murano.

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From 2005 to 2007, or the last three years the first-generation model was produced, sales for the Murano were relatively steady with a yearly average of over 77,000 units. As a result of the success achieved by Nissan’s first crossover, the automaker debuted its smaller Rogue CUV in late 2007, which quickly surpassed its larger sibling in 2008 with over 73,053 deliveries. Murano sales year-over-year fell by 6.5% from 2007 and the decline suggested that the well-received Rogue offering began to cannibalize its sibling’s sales. Although the two models realized similar sales in 2008, the gap between the two would progressively widen in the years that followed as the Murano was quickly becoming overshadowed by the Rogue.

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Of course, it wasn’t only the Rogue acting as competition, but also products from rival brands such as Honda and Toyota with their Pilot and Highlander, respectively, that caused trouble for the Murano. Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, sales for the Pilot and Highlander steadily increased while deliveries of the Murano fell; between 2011 and 2013, Murano deliveries decreased by 17% while sales of the Pilot and Highlander models combined to improve by 17%. Interestingly, in a comparison of national base models, while the Murano was priced on par with its two main competitors for the 2009 model year, the crossover’s MSRP was over $500 more than the average MSRP of the Honda and Toyota over the next three model years in which Pilot and Highlander sales accelerated upward. That spurred Nissan to drastically lower the MSRP of the Murano to roughly $1,100 below the Pilot and nearly $2,000 below the Highlander for both the 2013 and 2014 model years, but the sales disparity only worsened for Nissan as it became increasingly apparent its model was greatly in need of an overhaul.

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Now with production for the third-generation Murano set to take place at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi manufacturing facility, the model is primed to be as competitive in pricing and design as it’s ever been. The Nissan CUV is undoubtedly behind the eight ball though and will have to make up ground on its chief rivals and the Rogue, which has exhibited tremendous growth since its introduction. Serving as a precedent for the type of turnaround required by Nissan’s original crossover, however, is its larger Pathfinder sibling, a vehicle that sold a mere 18,341 units as recently as 2009. Incredibly, upon the arrival of the newest generation Pathfinder in late 2012, sales of the model exploded to reach nearly 89,000 units last year, leading the company to believe that the same can be done with its newest Murano.

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After falling into relative obscurity over the past several years, the Nissan Murano, with a completely new look, better-quality materials and an improved interior, has a great opportunity to reshape its image and become a true player in the CUV market. With the launches of the newest Rogue and Pathfinder models having already taken place, the focus now shifts to turning Nissan’s original crossover into a winner. The engineers and designers can only do so much to make the Murano a success, however, as it will now be up to the sales and marketing teams at Nissan to make sure the vehicle becomes a hit in the marketplace.