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Renault picks dealers to sell its Dacia brand

Renault is to give between half and three-quarters of its dealers the chance to drive the smash-hit, high-value Dacia brand into the UK market next year.

After a study identifying potential customers, bosses at the French firm are in the process of choosing which of its 200-strong retail network is best placed to serve them, AM can reveal.

Outlets selected to handle the Romanian brand will need to meet strict criteria covering facilities, management, financial skills and quality – but none will be required to provide heavy funding for the line-up that has been a surprise success across western Europe.

“We will not ask our dealers to make massive investments – all we want is for this brand to have the visual forecourt identity that will allow customers to recognise Dacia is available on site,” said managing director Roland Bouchara.

Even though it is anticipating strong demand for the brand that offers new car motoring at used car prices, Renault will not be seeking stand-alone representation for the time being.

“While I have no doubt that the sales potential of Dacia can justify this kind of investment, I am very keen on dealer profitability. We would see any move like this as justified only if the business case showed a return on investment over two years,” he said.

Speaking as the Sandero – the model that will introduce Dacia here in January – was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, Bouchara said two years of research had shown a “huge opportunity” exists in the UK.

“We have identified our customers and the specification of the product, but we are still negotiating with the factory over pricing. This will not be announced until autumn because we have to consider the competition, which is moving all the time,” he said.

“But I can tell you that the price will be very attractive for a relatively large hatchback product that is also attractive. Sandero will be affordable, offer high value for money and a high level of economy.

“Because the car is bigger than the Clio, we think it will appeal to young family motorists and I accept the proposition will be sufficiently attractive for us to suffer some cannibalisation of Clio sales. However, the net result will mean a significant increase in our overall volumes,” Bouchara added.

He declined to reveal volume predictions for the five-door model but added: “For sure, it will be significant and if we do underestimate demand, we will be able to secure additional supply. This as a huge opportunity because the used market in the UK is three times as big as the new market and I do believe strongly that Dacia is a win-win situation for customers and the Renault Group.”

Asked about warranty details, he replied: “I can’t say yet, but we know that warranty and maintenance costs on Dacia are extremely low – much lower than Renault because of the simplicity of engineering. Simplicity has been a key factor in the success of this brand.”

Destined for emerging markets when it was launched four years ago, the sturdy but well equipped entry-level Logan saloon surprised Renault by attracting first-time buyers across western Europe.

Dacia is now the ninth best-selling brand in France. “I am a big believer in the Sandero,” said Bouchara.

Crossover and all wheel drive models due in 2011

Crossover and all-wheel drive Dacia cars are set to arrive in UK showrooms by 2011 – but the Sandero hatchback will be the brand’s only model available next year.

Sharing the Logan platform, it is four metres long and has a 320-litre boot. Power units for the British cars have yet to be announced but 75bhp and 90bhp petrol engines of 1.4 and 1.6-litres are available – along with two versions of Renault’s familiar 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesel.

The most powerful develops 86bhp, but significantly, its 68bhp stablemate has 120g/km emissions.

A full range of safety features will include ABS, twin front airbags, head and chest side air bags and emergency brake assist to cut stopping distance by 20%.

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