Editorial: The Case For Importing The Dacia Duster

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Tim Cain’s article on how the Micra now accounts for 1 in 10 Nissans sold in Canada led me down the armchair product planner rabbit hole, though my conclusion was not the “Nismo Cube Diesel in Brown” that one might expect of an auto blogger. I think that there’s a strong case to be made for the Dacia Duster to be imported to Canada as an ultra-cheap Nissan crossover.

First of all, let’s take a look at the Canadian market. Behind compact cars, compact SUVs are the second biggest market segment in Canada. Unlike America, smaller cars are the hottest ticket in the Great White North, thanks to higher fuel prices, less disposable income and a propensity for many people to live in dense urban centres. Couple that with poorer weather and the fact that SUVs are very much in vogue, and you have the right conditions for a car market that is very receptive to the compact SUV, even if they cost a bit more than a compact or mid-size car.

Within that segment is a growing number of subcompact-sized SUVs. The Nissan Juke was arguably the pioneer of the segment in much of the world, but the Buick Encore, Jeep Compass and Chevrolet Trax will soon be joined by the Honda HR-V and other nameplates. It’s reasonable to expect that this segment will flourish even further, given that it offers many of the same qualitative advantages of a compact SUV, at an even lower price.

For Nissan, the Dacia Duster, already sold in world markets as the Nissan Terrano, is the sort of vehicle that could be offered as a low-cost companion to the Nissan Micra. Like the Micra, it would be pitched as a vehicle for basic transportation needs, albeit with the added space and practicality of an SUV bodystyle, and even AWD (on upper trim levels). At a low enough price point (less than the Juke’s $19,998 base price, but higher than the Micra’s $9,998 teaser price), a Terrano could be offered an attractive enough MSRP to draw buyers into the showroom, enticed by the idea of a dirt cheap, rugged SUV from a known brand like Nissan. There could be an utterly basic Duster with a manual gearbox, no A/C and lacking other creature comforts that would be offered as a loss-leader/Quebec market special, while higher content versions could be offered at higher prices.

Homologation for both safety and emissions standards would be necessary, but if Nissan can find a way around it for the Micra, it can be done for the Duster/Terrano. Production from Dacia’s Romanian plant would be covered under the soon to be signed Canada-EU free trade deal.

In a market that is extraordinarily price sensitive (Maritz data suggests that price and value for money are leading considerations for Canadian buyers), with high fuel prices, poor roads and even poorer weather, a low-cost small SUV seems like a slam dunk. Nissan took a real gamble on the Micra, but it seems to be paying off handsomely. A low-priced, compact SUV is likely to entail less risk and a far greater reward.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • TonyJZX TonyJZX on Sep 26, 2014

    wow what a weird difference there is in nissan markets worldwide canada has NO SUVs australia has more than half a dozen SUVs i downloaded the Terrano catalog off the India page and the reality is I dont think this CUV meets the safety standards in the Canada or the US or Australia. It only has 2 airbags and would get something like an Ncap 4? or less? i do like it but i would think that Nissan here would be pushing people into the Dualis Qashkai instead (which I admit is a nice looking CUV) we actually have an Xtrail but it is a $35,000 proposition and about 2 sizes up?

  • Banger Banger on Sep 28, 2014

    Knowing bunk-all about the Canadian vehicle market outside of the insights we get here at TTAC from our contributors above the 49th Parallel, I just came here to say "Nismo cube Diesel in Brown" is perhaps the best damned idea this Nissan cube owner has heard in a long, long time.

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.