My last post on TTAC was on the Renault Logan, but the vehicle pictured above, also a Romanian derived Dacia, is one that changed Renault’s fortunes in India overnight. After the Logan was licensed to Mahindra, Renault re-started its India innings with the launch of the Fluence and Koleos in 2011. The French automaker launched a re-badged Nissan Micra (called the Pulse) earlier this year. Renault’s monthly sales after the launch of these three cars revolved around 400 odd units, which equates to an yearly figure of around 5000 units. This gives them a 0.24% market share in India and places them in 13th position.
Earlier this month, Renault India launched the Duster, positioning it as a compact SUV. The Duster is offered with three engines, 1.6-litre petrol which produces 104 PS and the 1.5-litre k9k diesel in two sets of tune – 85 PS and 110 PS. All the engines are mated to a manual gearbox and Renault has tweaked the interiors (added beige inserts) slightly to give them a premium appeal. Prices start at Rs. 7.19 lakhs ($13000) and goes all the way upto Rs. 11.29 lakhs ($20434). These prices are ex-showroom and not inclusive of registration, road tax and insurance costs. So, yes the Duster does look a bit overpriced, considering it is highly localized and India is an export base for the right hand drive Duster.
However, the SUV loving Indians have taken to the Duster like a storm. The vehicle received 4000 bookings on launch day itself and 8000 bookings within a week. As I write this post, Renault has managed to get 10000 bookings for the Duster. That is more than what Renault has sold in the last twelve months in India. Getting inside a Renault dealership is not an easy task, as its crowded like a fish market. Every prospective buyer wants the Duster. There is no alternative to the vehicle and Renault can continue to make hay while the sun shines. The real competitor to the Duster comes in the form of the Ford EcoSport in 2013.
Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the auto industry of India.