Renault will begin exports of its compact SUV, Duster, to the UK by the end of this month, from its Chennai plant. This will mark the launch of the Dacia brand in that country.

Renault and Nissan share a common manufacturing facility at Oragadam, Chennai. While Nissan has been exporting to Europe for some time now, Dacia Duster (as the model will be called) will be the first car Renault exports from India.

Renault has decided to dedicate the Chennai plant as a right-hand drive hub, says Marc Nassif, Managing Director, Renault India, in a recent interview to Business Line.

“Dacia Duster will be different, with European masala. Right now, the Dacia brand does not exist in the UK.”

Incidentally, Dacia Duster is already being advertised in the UK. Dacia is a Romanian brand which Renault acquired in 1999.

“Dacia has been a successful brand in the left-hand drive markets with the Logan, Duster and Station Wagon,” says Nassif. Renault is eyeing other right-hand markets such as South Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia for exports from Chennai. This will hopefully happen next year, says Nassif.

But for the moment, it is important to “make a living out of India.” The focus has to be on sales in the Indian market, he emphasised.

While the executive sedans category has been on the decline, he says Renault’s latest launch Duster has been doing well in India. Renault has sold around 15,000 units of the compact sports utility vehicle since July.

“We are increasing plant production far beyond what we had originally planned. The response from suppliers and partners has been good — they have done their homework in ensuring that quality and volume can be achieved.”

There are two lines operating at the Chennai plant, across five shifts. Another line will be added in April.

Duster may be cannibalising sales of its other brands, but Renault is not worried. Executive sedans will bounce back, says Nassif.

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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