Never Mind The McLaren: Why The Dacia Sandero Is The Star Of The Paris Motor Show

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
never mind the mclaren why the dacia sandero is the star of the paris motor show

The Paris Auto Show is about to kick off tomorrow, and some of the product set to debut has me cursing myself for not maxing out my Visa on a flight and a room at the lovely hotel that’s walking distance from the Porte de Versailles, where the pretty girl with crooked teeth sits patiently at the front desk. And how could I forget the wizened gran-mere hovering over the table at breakfast, replenishing your plate with cheeses and baked goods that one could never hope to find at Publix?

Alas, I am not part of the A-List club that gets driven from the Georges V to the Expo Hall in an S-Class, and so rather than sucking down a Gauloises or getting a glimpse of Carla Bruni (I was blessed with such a privilege in 2010) I’m stuck in North America, having to use my brain rather than just repeating back what my PR minders told me over a glass of Cotes-de-Rhone.

The same people who are attending the show on the Sponsored Content plan will no doubt be running beautifully shot feature articles on the Jaguar F-Type, the McLaren whateveritscalled and the new Range Rover. I wish I was there to see them all, but I’d probably give them a once over at the show and then wait another 6 months for them to crop up in Forest Hill Village on a Sunday morning.

What I’m really interested in is the low end flotsam that we won’t ever get.Car makers can be put in one of three categories nowadays; low-cost, volume and premium. In Europe, volume car makers are getting pulverized by the godawful economic conditions on the continent. If you’ve read TTAC for longer than a week, you have seen at least one story about this. It’s arguably been the overarching narrative of 2012, and nobody is getting hit harder than European car makers. Peugeot Citroen is closing plants in France, Ford is hemorrhaging money, Opel is shrugging off the hand of the grim reaper.

Premium cars, buoyed by markets outside of Europe, are doing better, but even Mercedes-Benz is predicting falling profits and cutting costs to the tune of 1 billion euro in 2012. The shining star in Europe is the low-cost car, and to me, the Dacia Sandero is the most compelling car at the Paris Auto Show. Aside from its 15 minutes of fame on Top Gear, the Sandero’s story is so complex and politically loaded that even if the car was an irredeemable piece of garbage, it would still be fascinating.

Dacia was bought by Renault in 1999, and in 2004, the Logan was launched as a low-cost world car. Since then, roughly 1.8 million units have been sold, as buyers in emerging markets flocked to the Renault-engineered car that sold at Lada pricepoints. Later on, Dacia has launched the Lodgy minivan and Duster SUV, which have been critical and marketplace successes, with sales up 16 percent this year in an absolutely dreadful European market. In fact, Dacia has been so successful, that they’ve even been accused of cannibalizing sales of their big brother, Renault.

As if that weren’t pouring salt into the wounds of an ailing domestic car industry, Dacia products are now being built in the former colony of Morocco, where workers are paid 13 percent of what a French Renault worker makes.The Moroccan plant is said to be capable of exporting 85 percent of ts 400,000 unit annual capacity, and most of those will end up in Europe. In a country where immigrants from the Maghreb still struggle with their role in French society, this is, to put it mildly, a controversial issue.

Trade unionists and newspaper columnists have cried foul about the low wages and the outsourcing of jobs that have led to the erosion of the French middle class lifestyle. The outsourcing of low-cost vehcle production has led to the demise of good jobs – but the very people who hold them are unwilling or unable to buy a new mainstream car as it is. They want the low-cost Dacia, the one that could never be sold so cheap as long as they are built by workers making 1,800 euro a month and taking 5 weeks paid vacation. The whole situation is an interesting allegory for the decline of the state-subsidized “la belle vie” that has been enjoyed in Post-WWII France.

All that for one little hatchback that is slow, boring looking and will sell for under $10,000. Isn’t that more interesting than an 800 horsepower McLaren? I think so.

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  • Phxmotor Phxmotor on Jan 04, 2013

    All this will be water under the bridge once the 123 car makers in China rear their heads. The flood is coming, and the historical willingness of not just Americans but people all over the world, to reward makers of basic reliable vehicles with our hard earned dollars will be repeated again, and this time in spades... Thats the joke of it all, once everything is said and done, it will be the 10-15 Chinese mfgrs that are still standing in 35 years after the 100+ that exist now are winnowed out. Water under the under the underpass...spilled milk...sour grapes... we may as well just write all the stories now, 35 years before it actually happens. Its a natural cycle. Hard working people making decent products for affordable prices... its iphones and ipads now, soon it will be c-cars swamping our shores. And we will learn to love them as we learned to love VW Bugs and Civics and Camrys... Its inevitable. The T was 1st... then sooo many others had their turn, and we loved them all just as ardently. And the nuances of a 5 series understeer vs a Lexus' 18 speaker stereo just doesnt matter in the long run. Not to the bulk of buyers anyway. The final race hasn't been run yet, but we all know the outcome. And the real race is still 35 years off. Maybe only twenty ... who really knows. Its life, what the heck... with the right sense of humor it can still be fun, and funny. Its just cars already. And we get so emotional invested in it all. It's all pretty funny stuff actually.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jan 22, 2013

    You know it's cheap cars like this one that redefine the cheap cars we get in the US from certain manufacturers. Why does cheap have to be ugly? It seems obvious to me that certain manufacturers try to make the cheap cars ugly b/c they want to make their expensive cars more desirable. "Look - the flagship car is really, really nice looking AND it's SO much better than the economy car!" How long can this game be played until some "other brand" arrives with something that is small, cheap-ish (low cost) and good looking? Then the certain brands are stuck with ugly economy cars that nobody will touch with a ten foot pole. I wonder if at one time the cheap cars weren't as durable or reliable as the flagship cars. Then some economy car from Japan or Germany wrecked that pecking-order. Next we'll see cheap cars that are good looking. And that will wreck the next pecking order. Eventually what's left to differentiate the cheap from the expensive? Sound proofing? Extra gears? Leather vs cloth?

  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Ed That has to be a joke.