Renault has started a big push to raise awareness of its budget Dacia brand before large-volume imports start at the beginning of next year. An initial batch of twenty-two Duster SUVs has been brought into the country and will be on show at dealerships to generate interest in advance of the main sales effort.
Dacia is already a worldwide success but plans to introduce the cars in the UK have previously had to be postponed because of exchange rate complications and strong demand from other markets. Now, a new plant in India is coming online which will produce right-hand drive Dacias for the first time and it is this development that has opened the door to a UK launch.
Dacia has its origins as a manufacturer of Renaults under licence in Communist-era Romania, where its staple model, an R12 lookalike, dominated the country’s roads from the early Seventies onwards. When it was first introduced, the licence-built R12 was probably the most modern mainstream car being made in Eastern Europe, but over the years, it fell further and further behind as the industry advanced and by the time Ceausescu fell it was in dire need of updating.
Renault subsequently stepped in to revitalise the Dacia range with a series of inexpensive cars based on its own modern technology, producing a recovery that is strikingly similar to Skoda’s product-led turnaround under Volkswagen, although today’s Dacias are still a bit more basic than contemporary Skodas.
The first modern Dacia, the Logan, was a small saloon car, a type that isn’t very popular in the UK but accounts for the bulk of sales in emerging markets. That was joined by the Logan MCV, a stretched-wheelbase seven-seater estate version that probably offered the lowest-cost per occupant list price of any mainstream car on sale, but the UK range will initially concentrate on the Sandero, a small hatchback, and the Duster. At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the company also unveiled the Lodgy, a mid-sized people carrier.
In countries where they are already available, Dacias have generally sold well and also harvested favourable reviews. Renault, which recently pruned the range of cars it sells under its own name in the UK, will be hoping that that success can be repeated here. Pricing and specifications for the Dacia Duster will be announced on 28 June and customers will be able to place orders with a £100 deposit from that date. The first cars will be delivered at the beginning of next year.