Nissan to Introduce Convertible Version of Murano Crossover

Close your eyes and try to imagine a contemporary version of Volkswagen’s quirky Type 181, known in the U.S. market as the Thing. Now imagine it as a two-door model, and you may have a good idea what the new convertible Murano crossover will look like.

Nissan Motor Company has announced that the new model is already in the works. At a meeting in Las Vegas last month, the automaker treated dealers to a sneak peek of the new model, to mixed reviews. Most agree that the reaction from consumers will also be divided based on the polarizing effect the current model, with its distinctively back-end-weighted design, has on them.

One Nissan dealer who has seen the model and asked not to be identified described the design as “kind of unusual.” He said, “It actually looks better with the top down than up.”

Nissan of America Incorporated senior vice president for sales and marketing Brian Carolin said, “It’s not going to be a volume car.” He said the convertible Murano is not intended to be a high volume seller, but rather an image vehicle for the brand.

Nissan has had good success with the Murano with sales through July reaching 34,141 units, up 2% compared with last year. Launched in December 2002 as a 2003 model, the Murano was Nissan’s first crossover model. In 2007, the Japanese automaker launched the Rogue and will introduce a third crossover model, the Juke, later this year.

The Murano, which was nominated for the 2003 North American Truck of the Year award, is the largest of the models, sized between the Xterra and Pathfinder SUVs.

Considering the impending launches of the Leaf all-electric-vehicle and new Juke crossover and with sales of the Murano doing well, Carolin said, “There’s a degree of bravery for us to bring out a car like that [the convertible Murano] right now.” He added, “It will surprise a lot of people.”

The new Murano will be the industry’s first convertible crossover unless you include Chrysler’s PT Cruiser in the equation. The term “crossover” has never been clearly defined by the industry, and in 2005 Chrysler launched a convertible version of the recently discontinued PT Cruiser. The PT Cruiser wore the labels of crossover and retro wagon interchangeably and, like the Murano, inspired strongly positive and negative reactions from consumers.

Some would argue that, at six inches taller and nearly 20 inches longer, the Murano is less suited as a ragtop model than was the PT Cruiser. For now, however, we can only speculate. No official launch date has been announced, although some expect it could be as early as next year.

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