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Does this Nissan look familiar to you? It shouldn’t, because it was never sold in the US. This is a Nissan Primera-a third-gen Primera to be exact. It was designed specifically for the European market and to European tastes. This, according to Nissan.

The third-gen and last Nissan Primera launched in 2001

2001 Nissan Primera
2001 Nissan Primera | Nissan

Launched in 2001, Nissan was starting its long, slow crater to near-bankruptcy. But a strange thing was happening all over Europe. Its car enthusiasts found that leasing a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes, could actually be cheaper than renting a cheaper Primera. That’s because those premium sedans depreciated slower, which meant they had a higher residual according to the UK’s AutoCar. 

So upon return, dealers could make more. And those premium sedans were usually better-built, more prestigious, and more luxurious. Virtually no one would lease a more expensive Nissan if they could have one of Germany’s finest. 

Nissan didn’t sell. many Primeras so they wound up mostly as fleet sales

2001 Nissan Primera
2001 Nissan Primera | Nissan

Cars like the Primera ended up mostly being sold to fleets. But if you squint you might mistake a Primera for a BMW with that split grille. OK, so maybe you won’t, but Nissan was hoping you would. And one thing the Primera did fairly much like a BMW was it could handle. It was said to be a fun car to drive. 

Arriving in 1990, the Primera It always had BMW in its sights, not only because of the split grille but also because it received the Hofmeister kink in the rear side windows. The 1996 Primera got a substantial facelift, followed up by another facelift coming in 1999.

Primera won the British Touring Car Championship in both 1998 and 1999

2001 Nissan Primera
2001 Nissan Primera | Nissan

Also in 1998 and 1999, it won the British Touring Car Championship. As we said, it could handle. Then two years later this third-gen model arrived. It was designed to look like a coupe but with four doors and still having plenty of room.

Available as a hatchback, sedan, or wagon, the Primera interior featured a full complement of gauges, a large screen, and an array of knobs toward the bottom. Both a navigation system and reverse camera came with most trims. There were even rain-sensing wipers, hands-free telephone capability, adaptive cruise control, and pounding sub-woofer speakers. 

The Qashqai crossover erased the Primera from buyer’s minds

2001 Nissan Primera
2001 Nissan Primera interior | Nissan

Nissan quickly countered with the Qashqai crossover. It became a huge success for Nissan which erased the Primera from most car buyers’ memories. In the US it is called the Rogue Sport. 

This became a precursor to the SUV/crossover zeitgeist we’re seeing around the world, not just in the US. Its last year of production was 2007. Even back then the writing was on the wall.


Nissan Tells Us How It Blew It