Currently reading: Dacia to be repositioned as "serious" Jeep rival
Romanian brand to have “an aspiration beyond affordability” from next-gen Duster onwards

Dacia will be categorically repositioned as an offroad, ‘lifestyle’-oriented brand to rival Jeep as it pushes into new, larger market segments.

The Renault Group’s design chief, Laurens van den Acker, told Autocar that CEO Luca de Meo voiced his desire for the Romanian company to have “an aspiration beyond affordability” upon his arrival in 2021. 

“This is where the outdoor theme came up,” said van den Acker. “In my view, there’s no serious competitor for Jeep in Europe. Why couldn’t Dacia be that? There’s no [affordable] brand that’s linked to the outdoors, that gets you out of town, which, especially since the Covid days, is becoming extremely relevant. 

“[Dacia] is a brand that’s very well positioned for people who love the outdoors. It gives you two reasons to buy the car, not just one.” 

The first car to exemplify this approach will be the next-generation Duster, which will arrive in production form in 2024 as a more rugged and ‘lifestyle’-focused version of the affordable small SUV. 

Dacia bigster rear three quarter

Following that will be the Bigster, a larger and more expensive SUV aimed at the family market. 

Yet despite the increase in size and inevitably price, the Bigster won’t be significantly more premium than Dacia’s existing line-up, van den Acker confirmed. 

“Larger is true but premium is not true,” he said. “The reality is that if you start making bigger cars, you’re up against other competitors. 

“So we can’t simply copy the recipe from Sandero to the C-segment: that wouldn’t work. So we do have to be very clear [about] what’s facing us in terms of competition, because we’re not playing in the same game. 

“So Dacia will do what is right to be credible in the C-segment without losing its competitive advantage, which is [low pricing].”


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04 Byd dolphin fd 2023 front cornering 0

Van den Acker believes the biggest challenge now facing the Renault Group is the wave of highly competitive Chinese cars heading towards Europe but said Dacia is best positioned to lead a fightback against the new brands. 

“When all the brands are getting more expensive due to the transformation to EVs, not everyone will be able to afford this step,” he said. “And so there will be people wanting to look for decent, affordable, essential, cool transportation. I hope Dacia is going to pick up a lot of the leaves that will be falling off the trees.” 

Indeed, Dacia’s ethos has become especially poignant as inflation has soared over the past few months. Its delivery volume increased by 24% during the first half of 2023 and it became the second-biggest brand for retail sales in Europe, with an 8.4% market share.

Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a feature on the MG Metro 6R4

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like an Alpine A110 or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

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Calitè 26 August 2023

I'm hoping they mean classic/American Jeep, not the awful overcomplicated mess that is current European Jeeps. They ruined the Renegade when they added the e-4x4 system adding 300kg & removing much of its ability offroad, they've priced the Cherokee & Wrangler out of the EU market (£84k and £60k base price!) & the Compass is just nothing special in todays current SUV market. The classic Jeep alternative being the Jimny is also suffering with the PCV version just not being the same or offering the same features of the SZ5.

If the Duster can stay simple, return with the robust tried & true 1.5DCI K9K motor and mechanical locking centre diff with work done to better it's approach, departure & breakover angles, and removing the low level plastic that plague many softroaders then they will really have a market niche. Right now if you want a simple 4x4 at a reasonable price you're really limited to going all the way up to a 3.5T pickup which is overkill & expensive to run for mosts needs.

I'm hoping with the release of the Jogger & the established Sandero Stepway absorbing the commuter SUV market, this will allow them to properly specialise the Duster into the offroader niche, particularly with the commercial model, offering a lightweight alternative to a full sized crew cab.

They've already proven they're willing to buck trends & artificial 'preferences' created by auto journos with the release of the 1 star NCAP family MPV, ignoring most of the useless gubbins required for their testing nowadays, so I wouldn't put it past them to buck the overcomplicated hybrid/EV trend too with a niche model.

ianp55 22 August 2023

But surely Jeep have been trashing their own reputation for ruggedness,off road ability and being built in the USA but since the introduction of the Compass/Patriot were introduced in 2006 these core brand values have been diluted, Now the current Jeep line up consists of the Avenger/Compass/ Renegade are designed for terrain  no more difficult than the supermarket car park rather than the great outdoors. The only true Jeeps the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler have true off road capability and are still built in the USA but are seiously overpriced here. Jeep UK seems to not want to import the Cherokee,Gladiator or Wagoneer models here why is that. As for Dacia I'd forget about thinking about Jeep as a rival in the SUV/AWD who they should be looking at is Suzuki who produce all wheel drive versions of the Ignis,Swift & Vitara,Dacia prices have risen sharply in the past few years and quite soon be in the same pricing zone as Suzuki 

artill 22 August 2023

Dacia may be very successful as a bargain brand now, but they must know, in Europe at least there will be NO cheap cars when they are all EVs. People spending EV money will want something more, so moving up market seems right. Its sad, i would much prefer to see them continue to offer the sort of cars they are now known for, but they wont be allowed to sell what their current buyers actually want, so they have to move to what they will be able to sell, and sadly thats up market from where they are now.