A problem was found in an ignition-system part called the relay for vehicles produced from August 2003 through July 2006, including small cars like the March, Cube and Note, and about a dozen other models, such as the Tiida sedan, Titan pickup and Infiniti QX56 luxury model.
In extreme cases, the engine will stall and won't be able to start, said Nissan spokesman Mitsuru Yonekawa.
Of the recalled vehicles, nearly 835,000 were produced in Japan, 762,000 in North America, and 354,000 in Europe.
Nissan, which is allied with Renault SA of France, did not disclose a cost for the recall, but it may be relatively cheap requiring just a half hour to fix.
The cars were produced in Japan, the U.S., Great Britain, Spain, China and Taiwan.
The massive numbers involved in recent recalls are linked to cost-cutting strategies that result in the same parts being used in many models.
Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest automaker, has suffered a spate of recalls over the last year, totaling more than 10 million vehicles worldwide for sticky gas pedals, floor mats that can trap accelerators, brake fluid leaks and other problems.