Renault Duster Captures India
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.
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This has just gone on sale under the Dacia brand in the UK. The basic 2wd model is £8,995 (~$14,000). This is insanely cheap compared to the competition - the Nissan Qashqai starts at £16,595 (~$26,000) and even a base model Fiesta with 1.25 litre engine runs at £10,000 ($15,500). Obviously the Duster is rather basic in terms of spec, but it's a lot of car for the money in this market. http://www.dacia.co.uk/vehicles/duster/explore
It doesn't look that bad. The grille and headlights are a bit weird, but given the apparent popularity of the Juke and Qashqai in their respective markets weird isn't necessarily bad for everyone. I think it would do OK in the US market if you give it a Nissan grille and headlight treatment. Give it the Juke's driveline and sell it to those who want something this size but not the amphibious looks of the Juke. Call it the Axxess or X-trail or something Nissan-ish from other markets since Fiat could throw a fit over the "Duster" use.