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Renault badge for fresh Dacia Duster SUV

Cheap and cheerful: Renault has slapped its diamond-shaped lozenge badge onto the budget-priced Dacia Duster SUV for the burgeoning South American market.

French manufacturer unveils facelifted Duster with Renault badges for South America

Renault logo21 Jun 2011

By MIKE COSTELLO

RENAULT is set to launch a re-badged version of its budget-priced Duster SUV – a product from the stable of its Romanian subsidiary Dacia – onto the South American market later this year.

The Renault Duster was shown at last week’s Buenos Aries motor show in Argentina, where GM debuted the Chevrolet Colorado Rally concept (which previews Holden’s upcoming dual-cab Colorado ute) and Volkswagen unveiled an elongated twin-cab Amarok ute concept called the Maxi.

The Duster will be built at the French manufacturer’s Curitiba plant in Brazil and the SOFASA plant in Colombia. It will be launched in South America’s two biggest markets – Brazil and Argentina – in the fourth-quarter of 2011, before branching out to Colombia in May 2012.

It will also soon be available in Ukraine and parts of the Middle East and Africa, while reports from India indicate the Duster will also be produced at Renault-Nissan’s Oragadam plant near Chennai for a 2012 local launch, potentially opening the door for export to other right hand-drive markets such as Australia.

However, Renault Australia corporate communications coordinator Emily Ambrosy told GoAuto that the Duster does not currently feature in the company's plans down under.

"At this stage it is not featuring in our local product planning, however we're constantly reviewing appropriate opportunities for the group," she said.

Renault says this version of the Duster gets the company’s latest-generation four wheel-drive system and a more upmarket interior, including a redesigned dashboard.

35 center imageFrom top: Renault Duster, Renault Sandero 'Phase 2' and Renault Sandero Stepway 'Phase 2'.

Cosmetic changes - courtesy of Renault’s design studio in Sao Paulo - include a new chrome grille and rear strip, as well as gunmetal grey wheels that help differentiate it from its Romanian sibling.

The budget-priced Duster is currently sold with Dacia badges throughout Europe in both four wheel-drive and front wheel-drive configurations, with the option of 1.6-litre Euro 5-compliant petrol and diesel powertrains mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

The Nissan Dualis and Volkswagen Tiguan-sized Duster – which scored three stars in its European NCAP crash test earlier this year – is set to be launched with Dacia badges in the UK next year in RHD guise from around £12,000, or the price of an average small hatchback.

Also on the Renault stand in Buenos Aries were ‘Phase 2’ versions of the Dacia-based Sandero small-car and the Sandero Stepway crossover, both of which were already on sale in South America in previous iterations.

The French manufacturer has set itself an ambitious sales target for the Americas, aiming to double its sales tally of 200,000 in 2009 to 400,000 by 2013.

Last year, Renault sold 310,000 units in South America, including 160,297 in Brazil – its second-largest market after France.

Meanwhile, the Argentinean market reached a record total volume of 634,000 sales last year - up 26 per cent on 2009 - with Renault clinching third spot with 13 per cent market share.

“The next challenge for Renault in Argentina will be to surpass 100,000 vehicle sales a year for the first time in its history,” says Renault’s senior vice-president of global marketing, Steve Norman. “Something tells me that before the year is over we will have met this challenge.”

Dacia’s sales volume grew by 12 per cent in 2010, with global sales of 348,723 vehicles. The company has recorded double-digit growth figures for six consecutive years and doubled its annual sales figure between 2005 and 2010.

The company’s biggest markets were France (110,076 sales), Germany (40,500) and its home market of Romania (36,730).

In other news from the Buenos Aries show, Volkswagen unveiled the extended-tray Amarok Maxi concept, countering speculation from local press contingent that the Maxi would be a seven-seat wagon derivative of the Argentinean-built ute, which went on sale in Australia early this year.

Details on the Maxi are scarce, with no official word yet coming out of Wolfsburg. Overseas reports indicate the tray has been extended by 650mm in length to 2.1 metres, while retaining the same depth and width.

The wheelbase is also said to have grown by 650mm to 3745mm, making the overall length of the Maxi an enormous 5.9 metres.

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