France to take on China in cheap car market

Posted on June 1st, 2012 by Rob Marshall

In times of austerity, low-priced new cars make perfect sense. However, with the Malaysian value brands of both Perodua and Proton selling less than (approximately) fifty cars per month each, it seems as though that sector needs an injection of fresh blood. With the various Korean brands moving their stakes further upmarket, Chinese manufacturers are looking to fill the void in the bargain-basement sector. Yet, they are not alone as the French are looking to strike first with Dacia soon to arrive in the UK.

France to take on China in cheap car market

One might ask if the Renault/Nissan alliance were intent on committing corporate suicide, by concentrating so hard on selling Electric Vehicles (EV) that continue to be not only impractical but also overpriced, even once the substantial government subsidy is paid. Yet, Renault has been surprised in recent years with the unmitigated success of its low-cost Romanian brand in Europe, since the French firm replaced the sole 1300 model, which was based on the 1969 Renault 12, with a more up-to-date range. With demand outstripping supply, the Dacia brand, finally, has production capacity to accommodate right-hand-drive examples and the Duster model is mooted to arrive in the UK by the end of June. (see picture)

Meanwhile, the reports that Nissan might revive the ‘Datsun’ moniker, with which it will brand its cheaper models, also makes sense. If Nissan can persuade its French partner to swap Dacia badges for Datsuns, the badge-engineering exercise could help Nissan revitalise its low-priced offerings, including the cheap and undesirable Pixo. Yet, if low-priced Datsuns appear in the UK (and it will not be for some time yet), think of the new cars to be closer in sprit to the 120Y than the 240Z.