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Future models - Dacia - Duster

Pass on Dacia

Duster up: Low-cost brand Dacia's Duster is set to go into right-hand-drive production for the UK.

Renault says sourcing issues need sorting before Dacia can debut in Australia

6 Apr 2010

RENAULT’S low-cost Dacia brand is not being considered for Australia in its current incarnation, but future product developments and possible non-European manufacturing sites may pave the way for local introduction of the 44-year old Romanian marque.

The range is exclusively left-hand drive and manual transmission, and all models are made in Romania to primarily serve the home-market, central and eastern European countries and some parts of Africa and the Middle East.

But RHD right-hand drive availability on models more suited to Australian tastes, as well as possible new production facilities away from Europe, mean Renault is contemplating broadening Dacia’s reach.

To help satiate the expected high demand, Renault is set to have one of its Alliance (with Nissan and Samsung) facilities build the car in Brazil, Russia or even India. If India comes to fruition, it may open the door to importing the Duster and other future Dacia variants into Australia.

“We are working on having RHD vehicles for the UK market,” Renault Asia Pacific director Xavier Casin told GoAuto Media at the launch of the Clio Renaultsport 200 in Melbourne late last month.

“And if we can do that then we would be delighted to have it for Australia. But this vehicle is designed and produced for the European market, so (any possibility of a Dacia debut in Australia) is also about having the right product.

“It is an opportunity we are (contemplating) but we have no answers yet for Australia. Plus, if Dacias are only made in Romania their low-cost advantage is outweighed for us by shipping costs. Ideally we would have a closer manufacturing site than Romania.

“But there is an alliance factory in Chennai India, and they need a vehicle that meets their needs, and so if this was going to happen it would help (Dacia’s cause to come to Australia).”

151 center imageLeft: Dacia Sandero. Below Dacia Logan.

Renault Australia managing director Rudi Koenig has told GoAuto Media previously that it is highly unlikely that Dacia-built vehicles would ever be marketed in Australia under the Renault brand.

Britain is in line for the new Dacia Duster compact SUV from 2012 to coincide with its RHD development, some three years after the original on-sale date for the smaller Dacia Sandero and Logan was shelved due to the global financial crisis of 2008.

Ironically, Dacia sales flourished by over 20 per cent last year to a record 300,000-plus units, despite a 50 per cent fall in the home market, due to the low-cost high-value quotient of the Toyota Corolla-sized Sandero (hatch) and Logan (sedan, wagon and LCV light commercial vehicle) ranges, which were perfectly priced and positioned to take advantage of the myriad scrappage and tax incentive schemes rolled out by various governments in Europe to prop up new-car sales.

At one time in Germany during the 2008-9 incentive program, Dacia sales reportedly were running at 12.5 times the predicted rate – an undreamed of situation for a low-cost brand in such a mature and ‘premium’ market. All told, more than 85 per cent of the company’s production last year was exported.

The Duster – unveiled at the Geneva motor show last month – will be introduced throughout Europe, including Turkey, as well as in some North African and Middle Eastern markets, from this year.

It too will be marketed using the same low-price strategy to lure compact SUV buyers into the Dacia fold – although the Duster may be sold under the Renault brand in a few countries.

As with the Sandero and Logan, the Duster is built on Renault’s transverse engine B0 platform that started out in the 1998 Clio II, but departs from its passenger car brethren with its crossover styling and Nissan X-Trail-derived drivetrain hardware. Using these and other long-amortised and well-proven components keep Dacia prices low.

But in its current guise, only manual transmission Duster versions are produced, available in front and all-wheel drive formats in either Renault-sourced 1.5-litre dCi turbo-diesel or 1.6-litre petrol variants.

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