Nissan Rogue Sport

The new Nissan Rogue Sport -- sold as the Nissan Qashqai outside the U.S. -- was unveiled Monday as the Japanese automaker's latest answer to the rising appetite of some American consumers for any vehicle but a sedan.

A foot smaller in length than the Rogue sold in the U.S., the new model positions Nissan (NSANY) to further expand sales of crossovers under the Rogue name and challenge Toyota's  (TM - Get Report) RAV4 and Honda's  (HMC - Get Report)  CRV for leadership of the compact crossover segment.

Nissan, which intends to import Rogue Sport from Japan, was among automakers exhibiting new models at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Detroit-based General Motors (GM - Get Report) introduced a restyled version of its GMC Terrain compact SUV, lighter by 300 pounds, which also competes against RAV4 and CRV.

Duncan Aldred, GM's vice president in charge of GMC, said on Sunday night that compact crossovers are "one of the fastest growing segments of the market, and we believe we can get a bigger share of it." The vehicle will be built at a GM plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

GMC Terrain 2017
GMC Terrain 2017

GMC Terrain 2017

Automakers noted for several years that consumers are showing a heightened interest in crossovers; lately the trend has been accelerating, driven by low fuel prices and relatively easy credit. Designers say customers also are attracted by a higher seating position that improves visibility and is more comfortable to exit.

Nissan introduced its Juke subcompact crossover to the market and also sells a Pathfinder crossover, which is larger than Rogue. In the compact segment, Nissan sold 329,904 Rogues in 2016, compared with 352,154 for RAV4 and 357,335 for CRV. GMC Terrain sold 87,925 -- the same architecture is used by GM to sell its Chevrolet Equinox.

Rogue and Rogue Sport look quite similar, despite the slight difference in size. Dropping the Qashqai name for the U.S. undoubtedly was a smart move, especially since Nissan has spent prodigiously to promote the Rogue name in connection with the latest Star Wars film.

How far the crossover trend will go, and whether automakers would cancel some poor-selling sedan models are questions on the minds of many automotive executives. Lex Kerssemakers, head of Volvo in the U.S., said on Monday that he believes sedans will remain important and viable, though, perhaps, reduced in number.

Ford (F - Get Report) , which has said it will revive its Ranger light pickup truck, on Monday announced that it also will be building a Bronco compact SUV and showed a prototype. The models borrow names from two discontinued Ford models in the U.S. The Ranger will be built in 2019; Bronco in 2020, the automaker said.

Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.