French car maker Renault says its Dacia budget brand is being considered for a future in the Australian market.
The Romanian brand, purchased by Renault in 1999, is perhaps best known for being the butt of a running joke on the news section of BBC's Top Gear show.
In recent years, models such as the Dacia Duster (above) and Dacia Logan (below) have proved surprisingly popular in Western Europe. The success of the models hasn’t gone unnoticed by Renault Australia, though the local subsidiary says there is still much to consider.
“We'll look at how [the brand] is doing in Europe. It is interesting in that regard,” Renault Australia boss Justin Hocevar said. “But there are other aspects of the Australian market that do lead to questioning whether it would be right.
“Driving dynamics… have Australians set themselves a benchmark [against which] this vehicle wouldn’t satisfy them?
“Then again, those sort of driving dynamics have always been a demand of Europe and customers are flocking to it.
“The product’s good, so don’t think that’s the issue [for Australia]. Does it deliver brand values Renault is trying to communicate in the market? Not so much, no.
“[But] if the price is right there is always opportunity. Look at the equation. If you were to introduce the Duster to Australia it would more than likely be the most affordable compact SUV by a long shot. It would probably fill the space the Suzuki Vitara used to fill.”
The Dacia Duster is 4316mm long, making it about the size of the Volkswagen Tiguan. The front-wheel-drive SUV is powered by a 1.6-litre engine. It costs £8995 (about $14,000) in the UK. The Tiguan, in contrast, costs from £20,615 (about $32,000).
Other models available include the Dacia Logan sedan, Dacia Sandero hatch and Dacia Sandero Stepway compact SUV (below). The two Sandero models were revealed in new-look form at the 2012 Paris motor show.
Some of the models run under the Renault badge in some markets such as India, and Renault Australia says that presents one of the conundrums if it were to introduce the vehicles here.
“That is the $1 million question [of whether to have the models under a Renault badge or not],” said Hocevar. “Do you introduce products into a brand where you’re setting up values for Australians to understand, or do you introduce a completely new brand and then you’ve got to worry about do you have a new dealer network or do you franchise it out with existing dealers?
“You’ve got to communicate the brand, and you’ve got to sell a certain number of cars before you can afford to put it on television, print or digital media.
“It’s not an easy one to answer [about bringing Dacia vehicles to Australia]. It’s on our radar. We haven’t said yes and we haven’t said no. And if it were ever to happen it would not be for the foreseeable future, because for now we’re just focusing on getting the Renault brand right in Australia.”