Eight years after launch, Dacia’s incredible success story goes on. In year one, the Romanian budget brand made 80,000 cars; last year it made 800,000. And next year, it finally arrives in the UK, to face the acid test of one of the most sophisticated and mature markets anywhere in the world.
The Paris motor show saw the launch not just of the new Renault Clio, but just as importantly – moreso, you could argue – the new Dacia Sandero supermini and Logan saloon. And it was fascinating to get Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker talking on the subject of designing both Renaults and Dacias in parallel.
"When I arrived at Renault three years ago, there were a lot of people who were afraid that Dacia would eat its parent for breakfast," he said. "So there was a need for Renault to respond. When you look at Clio and Sandero, both cars had to be strong and separate, but also complimentary to each other."
"We decided to make Dacia even more Germanic, and that forced Renault in a more Latin direction – we’re French after all," he went on. "If the German car brands are cold and the Italians are hot, Renault needs to be warm – Renault’s cars need beauty and substance at the same time."
But it gets even more complicated, with the Romanian value brand under the same umbrella. "If Dacias are robust, Renaults need to be sensual," explained Laurens; "if Dacias are more rational, Renaults should be more emotional." And juxtapositions like that created the Clio and Sandero as "alter egos," Laurens says. "Jekyll and Hyde, you could say."
The big question for me is, come the launch of Sandero next January, which car will the UK public take to in greater numbers – the stylish, upmarket Clio, with its added desirability, but doubtless an increased price to match, or the simple, practical, sub-£7k Sandero – a car that itself now doesn’t exactly look like a cut price option?
For Renault’s sake, and for the vindication of all of the money and effort spent pursuing van den Acker’s brand reinvention, it needs to be the Clio. But personally, it’s the Sandero that I find the more interesting.