It gets people to buy cars… while dressed up in Star Wars costumes.

Jeremy Meadows is Nissan’s senior manager for marketing and creative strategy. He’s also a huge Star Wars fan, as evidenced by the fact he’s wearing R2D2 socks at the Chicago Auto Show. That made him the perfect fit to oversee Nissan’s partnership with Lucasfilm, a tie-in that's intended to help sell cars.

The most visual part of that partnership is the company's auto show stand. Nissan has shown off a 21-foot-tall Tie Fighter model at past shows, and here in Chicago, there’s a 17-foot inflatable Death Star hanging above an X-Wing-inspired Rogue concept. Over the weekend, attendees will even get to see actors dressed up as Storm Troopers, ready to take selfies with members of the public.

“It gives us something to break through at the auto show,” says Meadows. “It really keeps us at top of their [customers’] minds, like, ‘I’ve really got to get over that Death Star.’”

Nissan Chicago Auto Show stand
Nissan Chicago Auto Show stand

In fact, Meadows says the partnership has done a lot to help raise public awareness and perception of the refreshed 2017 Rogue. The special-edition special-edition Nissan Rogue Star Wars edition, which is on sale now in dealers, has attracted very loyal fans to dealerships.

“We’ve actually had some fans show up in costume ready to buy one,” Meadows says. “A family of four showed up dressed as Storm Troopers and Darth Vaders.”

The special-edition model, based on the Nissan Rogue SV, has proven so popular that several dealers have sold out of their stock. Meadows says some customers have shown up simply because of the Star Wars add-ons and purchased or ordered the car without even test-driving it.

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Nissan decided to jump on the Star Wars tie-in in spring 2016 after learning that the most recent movie’s name, Rogue One, matched the name of the brand’s popular crossover. That led to a mad-dash work effort last summer to build the special-edition Rogue, as well as to prepare other marketing efforts. That wasn’t cheap, and Nissan also has to pay a licensing fee to Lucasfilm for its intellectual property. But the funds just came out of Nissan’s regular marketing budget.

“We would have been spending money anyway to launch our 2017 Rogue,” Meadows says.

The inflatable Death Star seen here was made by Lucasfilm, while the 21-foot-tall Tie Fighter at past shows was built by a German Star Wars fan group and loaned to Nissan. Nissan’s display also has miniature replicas of some of the ships from the Rogue One movie, as well as the Death Trooper helmet, made from fiberglass by Gentle Giant Limited, that can only be obtained by buying the special-edition Rogue.

As to the concept Rogue on display? Nissan worked with Lucasfilm to conceive what would appear to be a road-going X-Wing fighter. It’s hand-painted with a Star Wars-like livery, with blasters, thrusters, and a “functional” droid sticking out of the roof that moves, lights up, and makes sounds. It, like the other props, is designed to pique the interest of fans – and hopefully get them sharing photos on social media. The car is, sadly, not for sale.

Nissan Rogue X-Wing concept
Nissan Rogue X-Wing concept
Nissan Rogue X-Wing concept
Nissan Rogue X-Wing concept

“You don’t get much more iconic than an X-Wing fighter,” Meadows says. “This right now is such a beloved franchise by so many people, it’s a way to continue to support our brand.”

Nissan's partnership with Lucasfilm extends through the end of April, suggesting we'll see more Star Wars exhibits at the New York Auto Show.

Gallery: Nissan 2017 Chicago Auto Show Stand

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