When you think of a foreign automaker, there is perhaps not a more legendary entity than the Nissan Motor Company, a company that is known for creating some of the most iconic cars to ever sweep the automotive industry. Nissan brought us the legendary Z car, and this is just one of the many cars that have come out of the brand's innovative design philosophy and created a brand image that lives through to this day.
There was a period during the eighties and the nineties where Nissan was actually on the brink of demise, and this was partly due to the fact that the company had overspent on brand names and a good deal of advertising.
Carlos Ghosn was the executive who was responsible for turning Nissan around and back into the profitable company that we see today, but there were quite a few models that hit the automotive industry that Nissan dropped the ball on. Weird looking vehicles such as the Axxess are just a few that were being sold on dealer lots around these earlier time periods and causing the company to accrue a great deal of debt, as well as losing market share to Toyota and Honda.
The Nissan Motor Company almost met its demise during the new millennium if it had not been for the quick thinking experience of Carlos Ghosn. We are going to be taking a look at some of the cars that brought the legendary automaker very close to its demise.
29 Nissan Axxess (Is It A Minivan Or A Wagon?)
During the nineties, there were a lot of weird looking cars coming onto the import scene, and one such vehicle was the Nissan Axxess. This interesting little wagon was a mix between an early minivan and an SUV, which tended to confusion with consumers.
The Axxess was a car that contributed to much of Nissan's financial issues at the time because the car did not really have a core market. This was a problem with much of the lineup at this time, where Nissan was trying to target multiple markets at once.
28 Nissan Pulsar (The Odd Looking Two-Door)
The original Nissan Z was the quintessential sports car, right? Well, the Nissan Pulsar was a compact two-door that was designed to be a sports car. The Nissan Pulsar had an odd-looking design which was not very popular with consumers, not to mention Nissan sold quite a few different models at the same time that we're all in the coupe range.
Nissan attempted to saturate the market with two-door models, and this just contributed to the close demise that the company was experiencing during this time.
27 Nissan Stanza (The Smaller Maxima?)
There were multiple sedans that hit the market from Nissan as well, and one such sedan that actually became well known is the Stanza. This compact sedan which originally started life as a Datsun was a feature filled and spunky sedan, which is why there were quite a few automotive publications that praised the one of a kind sedan.
However, due to the fact that the larger Maxima was already on the market, the Stanza never managed to sell well and instead crowded the dealership lots.
26 Nissan Van (Forgettable Is An Understatement)
When the Chrysler trio of minivans hit the market during the eighties, the other automakers were caught off guard because no one in the industry thought that a minivan would be a viable product. Nissan and Toyota both released quick vans that were both using outdated and foreign designs and one forgettable model was the Nissan Van, which never managed to take on the Chrysler models in a truly competitive way.
Finding a used Nissan Van is hard because the model just never managed to sell.
25 1996 Nissan Altima (Who Could Forget This Bland Sedan)
Nissan was attempting to remain competitive during the nineties after a slew of confusing vehicles that clogged up the lineup, and the Altima was released to compete with the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.
Automotive journalists were negative toward the Altima because of the bland style and the awkward rear quarters of the car. Although this generation of the Altima is fairly common on the used car market, the model was not very popular during its initial run, and this was partly due to the unimaginative styling.
24 Nissan Pickup (Lacking Innovation Much?)
When it comes to a well-known vehicle, the Nissan Pickup is one of the most common and well-known models that has roamed the automotive industry, but from the name to the lack of styling, the Nissan Pickup was pretty bland.
The Nissan Pickup lacked innovation in many aspects, with a bland interior and the lack of a true extended cab model. The Nissan Pickup was not innovated until the Frontier came onto the scene, and the truck should have been innovated a little bit more by Nissan.
23 Nissan Quest First Generation (The Undersized Minivan)
The original Nissan Van did not do well in the domestic market at all, and with Toyota releasing their Previa model, Nissan decided to release the Quest. This van was developed in partnership with Ford Motor Company, and thus the Mercury Villager was born as well.
The van was severely undersized when compared to other minivans that were on the market at the time, and this impacted sales negatively. Plus, the model had competition from its Mercury cousin, which might not have been well thought out by Nissan.
22 Mercury Villager (The Nissan Quest With A Spaceship Grill)
Nissan was in bad shape during the early nineties, which might have been why the automaker decided to release the Mercury Villager in partnership with Ford to forego some of the development costs. The Mercury Villager was an identical vehicle to the Nissan Quest, with the notable exception being the light up grill which was similar to the Sable at the time.
The Mercury Villager was a bad seller, and the model crowded the minivan market which caused the Quest to sell slower as well.
21 1996 Nissan Sentra (Forgettable At Best)
Along with the Nissan Altima, the Nissan Sentra was also redesigned during the nineties and caused the automaker to take on even more debt. The 1996 Nissan Sentra was a bland car in many aspects, which was not far different from the other models at the time such as the Honda Civic.
These bland looking sedans and two-door models were part of the reason that Nissan took on an extraordinary amount of debt during this time, and we can’t help but to forget this bad impression of the Nissan Sentra.
20 Nissan Pathfinder (First Generation) (Who Can Forget The Awkward Passenger Doors)
The original Nissan Pathfinder was a midsize SUV that was released to compete with the Ford Explorer and the Chevrolet Blazer, but the model had a lot of drawbacks which caused it to suffer in terms of sales. The first of which was the fact that the model was basically a Hard Body truck with a camper shell on the back, and there was no real innovation when it came to the design of the vehicle.
Although the Pathfinder is still around today, this model definitely could have ridden the SUV wave a lot more if the design had been more inventive.
19 Nissan NX (The Car That Had No Purpose)
The Nissan cars and trucks of the nineties were so unimaginative that it was confusing to the consumer-base to see just how many models were in the lineup, and the brand continued to try and release two-door models that no one really wanted.
The Nissan NX was similar to the Mazda MX-3 in many aspects, but the car is just another example of being forgotten by consumers who were otherwise uninterested in the model and what it had to offer, or the lack thereof.
18 1990 INFINITI M (The Cheap Lexus Impersonator)
Honda caught the other foreign automakers off-guard when they released the Acura lineup of luxury-oriented vehicles, and thus Toyota developed the Lexus brand and Nissan had to follow suit with the Infiniti brand.
The original Infiniti M was a cheap car in every aspect, with rampant reliability issues and a weird looking design that just failed to resonate with the consumer base in which Nissan was trying to attract. This lead to a serious decline for both Nissan and the new Infiniti line.
17 1990 INFINITI M Convertible (The Lexus Impersonator With Lipstick On)
Trying to innovate where the other foreign automakers did not, the Infiniti brand attempted to introduce a convertible to the market at a time when the foreign automakers really only had offerings from Audi, Saab, and BMW just to name a few.
Needless to say, the Infiniti convertible was lackluster at best and you will generally find these offerings in the junkyard because the build quality was lackluster at best and it lacked a good deal of refinement that you would come to expect from a luxury car manufacturer.
16 INFINITI Q45 (The Weird Looking V8 Powered Sports Sedan)
The much larger Q45 was a direct competitor to the Lexus LS400, although the model lacked in the sheer depth of research and innovation that Lexus had poured into their large sedan.
This lack of innovation made the Q45 a forgettable if not lackluster offering into an already crowded selection of big V8 powered sedans at the time. The Q45 also had a bad looking nose, which made the car lack any type of personality whatsoever. From time to time you’ll find these on the used car market, but the sales were lackluster at best.
15 1993 INFINITI G20 (The Birth Of A Pint-Sized Luxury Sedan)
Then there was this, the G20. This small luxury sedan actually amassed quite a loyal following on the aftermarket community. People tend to flock to this car thanks to its lightweight compact size and the one of a kind quality that went into it.
Unfortunately, for the domestic market, the G20 was just too small and overpriced to attract any serious buyers into an Infiniti showroom and this caused a serious rift in Nissan finances at a time when Nissan was already struggling.
14 INFINITI J30 (The Nissan Altima That Got A Bubble Butt And Wood Trim)
Nissan was looking to turn their fortunes around during the late nineties, and with the Infiniti lineup pretty much failing, they had to do something different so they introduced the J30 which was nothing more than a Nissan Altima that was dressed up.
Here are a few issues with this notable car, the first of which was the fact that the J30 was still smaller in size than many other luxury sedans at the time. The second major issue here was the high price point for a car that consumers recognized right away as a Nissan Altima, and this hurt the Infiniti reputation even more than the G20 did.
13 INFINITI QX4 (The Nissan Pathfinder With A Facelift)
The mismanagement at Nissan was apparent during the nineties, and the executives at the automaker realized that the SUV boom was among them. Thus, Nissan decided to sell the QX4 as a luxury SUV.
This was another example of poor badge engineering as this truck was really nothing more than a jazzed up Pathfinder, and when we say jazzed up, we mean a different grill and some nice seat warmers. The QX4 also didn’t do anything positive for the Nissan reputation at the time, which was still quite tarnished.
12 INFINITI I30 (The Nissan Maxima That Got Some Pizzazz)
Nissan should get an A for effort when it comes to trying to woo buyers at a time when no one was really considering a Nissan or Infiniti model at all. The I30 was an attempt to revitalize the brand, and the company decided to badge engineer their Maxima this time.
While this attempt was a little better, the car still came off as a cheap imitation, especially when compared to the Lexus and BMW models at the time which were not only higher quality but also competitively priced within the range of the Infiniti.
11 The INFINITI G20 Second Generation (Less Reason To Take Infiniti Seriously)
The Infiniti brand did not give up on their bite-sized luxury car, at least not yet. The second generation model was a refresh of the original G20 but the car still lacked in many areas and buyers let it be known.
The car was still undersized and severely underpowered, although some automotive journalists said that the very rare manual transmission model held up much better in the rigorous road testing.
10 The Nissan Quest Second Generation (The Spaceship)
When Nissan set out to redesign the Quest, they tried to make the van something that was sportier and a much more comprehensive vehicle than the aged outgoing model that sold poorly.
The new Nissan Quest did not share any underpinnings with any Ford model, but unfortunately the van still never managed to sell very well. Even the revised variation was a poor seller for the brand, and Nissan ultimately discontinued the van for the domestic market.
9 The Nissan Versa (The Jelly Bean Sentra)
We’ll give it to Nissan, they certainly tried to expand into other classes of the vehicle once their momentum shifted. But, the Nissan Versa was a failed attempt at a small car. The little Versa was underpowered, to say the least, and that is just one of the drawbacks that this little compact car suffered from.
The Versa was also undersized when compared to the other subcompacts on the market such as the Kia Rio, which offers far more features and a more stylish exterior.
8 The Nissan Leaf (Same Versa, Less Power)
The original Nissan Leaf was a good idea, released at a time when there was a hunger for new All-Electric vehicles that were both cheap to own and affordable to operate. The problem with the Nissan Leaf is that it lacked any mainstream appeal for a family who would need more space, and this created a problem as the automaker tried to compete with the Chevrolet Volt.
The Leaf has since been redesigned, but the car stands as a testament to what still goes wrong at Nissan from time to time.
7 Nissan Pathfinder V8 (The Short-Lived Idea)
During the economic downturn, Nissan was looking for a way to get their SUVs off of dealership lots, and the Nissan Pathfinder V8 was another way to get more buyers on their lots.
Unfortunately, while a good idea, the Pathfinder V8 was short-lived to say the least and most consumers don’t even know that this SUV ever existed. We love how the V8 Pathfinder really introduced a new level of performance to the outgoing model but in the spectrum of things, this model was a little too late.
6 2002 Nissan Altima (Engine Failures Galore)
When the 2002 Nissan Altima burst onto the scene the car was an extremely popular seller for Nissan, with a radical new style and a modern interior that set the car apart from the boring pack.
Unfortunately, the 2002 Nissan Altima is known for a plethora of engine failures which have plagued the car since it was new. We like everything about the 2002 Nissan Altima except for the fact that the car is just not a reliable one, and that will leave a negative stamp on Nissan for some time.
5 The Infiniti M Sedan (Big, Overpriced, Boring)
Hot on the heels of the successful Infiniti G35 Sedan and Coupe, the luxury brand was trying to innovate with another winning sedan, thus The Infiniti M Sedan was born. The big and bulky model was known for its V8 engine, but a clumsy instrument cluster and dashboard made the car a pain to live in.
The V8 engine was unrefined, to say the least, and this caused frustration with the luxury buyers who were trying to choose this large sedan over offerings from Lexus and BMW.
4 The 2003 Nissan Murano (Great Idea, Bad Engineering)
What started as one of the modern crossover vehicles, the Nissan Murano was a great car in every aspect. From the engine which is derived from the Z sports car to the one of a kind styling that gave it a sporty and aerodynamic style.
Unfortunately, the 2003 model year was plagued with reliability issues, which at the time were a real drawback to one of the hottest new cars of the year. The Nissan Murano has since become a focal point in the Nissan lineup, with the car remaining a stellar seller to this day.
3 Nissan Rogue Convertible (What Is It?)
Now, the current Nissan Rogue is a compact SUV that has been racking up the positive press from the automotive journalists, but a few years back there was a model that no one in the automotive community could quite understand.
The Nissan Rogue Convertible is an oddball looking crossover that never really managed to catch on with the buying public. The model was quite unique, to say the least, and this is a one of a kind crossover that has not been replicated to this day.
2 The Nissan Cube (Too Late To The Square Trend)
When it came to popular cube-shaped cars, the Scion XB set the pace for the cube car trend of the new millennium, and the Nissan Cube was a little late to the game. Although the car was quite unique and offered a different array of styling from the Scion, the model was released much later in the game and it didn’t really catch on.
The Nissan Cube was an innovative idea that probably should have been executed much earlier in time, which is still a problem for Nissan to this day.
1 Nissan Juke (Another Flop That No One Wanted)
On top of the Nissan Cube, the Nissan Juke was another rare car that was designed and sold at a time when consumers were no longer trying to consume a car that was so unique.
The Nissan Juke was designed to be different, and this is why Nissan had high hopes for the innovative little compact. But, the Juke never really caught on with the buying public either, which ended up causing a sales slump for the company. The Nissan Juke has not lived on into the newer generation of vehicles.
Sources: Motor Week, Motor Trend & Edmunds