The auto industry can be a funny game of musical chairs; case in point is the Eagle Premier, a name that has almost certainly caused your brow to furrow right now.
The name doesn’t sound too French, but the Eagle Premier was largely a creation of Renault, with some American engineering to change the 25 luxury sedan into an acceptable rival for vehicles like the Chevrolet Celebrity and the Ford Taurus.
But before it could go on sale, Renault decided to give up on its American Motors adventure – modest hits with the Alliance and LeCar were outweighed by dogs like the 18 and Fuego – and sold AMC to Chrysler in 1987. While Chrysler saw value in the Jeep lineup (the XJ Cherokee was hot, hot, hot back then), the Renault-derived cars were given the Eagle nameplate and subsequently forgotten by the marketing department.
The Premier was a French car, modified by engineers in Michigan, built in Canada and now sold by a company that didn’t really want it. I’m surprised Charles Dickens didn’t write this sad orphan story.
According to this clip from Motorweek in 1987, it was a car that could’ve been a hit if anyone knew about it. Which is a shame, because while the Premier didn’t look like much, it was full of interesting engineering ideas. A car no longer than a modern Honda Accord was capable of seating for six. The longitudinally mounted engines with front-wheel drive were something Audi-like in the ’80s. And then there’s the fact this basic engineering (with the AMC engineers) was developed into the Chrysler LH sedans of the ’90s.
Yet no one really cared about the Premier when it went on sale, that coupe they talked about never materialized and it died a quiet death in 1992. Eagle soldiered on just until 1998. And Renault never came back to the States. Which means if you want your modern French car fix in the U.S., either scour the Internet for a decent Premier or wait until you can buy one of the new DS cars here.