2013 might have been a turning point for the economy, but cost-conscious Brits, from all classes, continued to make their money work harder than ever. With old school “value for money” sweeping the high street, 12 months ago, one fledgling brand, Dacia, embarked on its mission to shake up the UK car industry with its unique take on “shockingly affordable” motoring.
And what a record-breaking year it’s been. Western European buyers have been snapping up Dacias in their thousands for years. But, because of their stunning success, aside from “eye spy” Dacia spots in sunnier climes, like typical Brits, while the French and Germans, among others, eagerly filled their boots, we’d queued up patiently to see what all the fuss was about. All that changed on 17thJanuary, as the Duster and Sandero burst onto the scene. Literally. On that day, the ‘Dacia don’t do frivolity. You Do The Maths’ media campaign hit every media channel, and all main Dacia Retailers had their first Duster SUV and Sandero supermini demonstrator cars available.
Right up until launch, the word on the street and the internet was that there was no way the brand’s bullish aim of offering a new supermini for “significantly less than £7,000”, let alone a spacious, family SUV for “under £10,000” would stack up in the real world. Or, at least with them making a profit. Oh, how wrong they were. With customers queueing up at its showrooms in their droves, awards pouring in, plus two more new models up its sleeve for release later in the year, Dacia fast became the envy of many established rivals right from the start.
Much of it didn’t come as a huge surprise to parent company, Renault. The Dacia brand, already the darling of the automotive industry, continues to ride the crest of a wave. Bucking the trend in many countries with falling sales and ever-decreasing profit margins, it had cleverly carved out its own niche, filling a void left behind by other brands who had their hearts set on becoming more upmarket.
Of course, plenty of us had already seen Dacias and the brand’s value phenomenon sweep across Europe and the Euromed. But, for most, aside from the inimitable James May’s obsession with the brand, this was their first chance to see, touch and drive them for themselves.
The brand came to the UK with one mission. To shake up the long stagnant new and used UK car markets by offering “shockingly affordable” vehicles with high levels of quality and unrivalled space and equipment for the money. A car from one class for the price of the one below if you like. Or, in the case of Duster, two below. And boy, did the Great British public grasp the concept. With both hands.
Amidst a publicity blitz in true ‘break the rules’ style at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July 2012, surrounded by some of the finest supercars and most valuable classic cars the world has to offer, Dacia brazenly slapped “from £8,995” decals on the side of its Duster SUV and set about offering the eager British public their first taste of what it had to offer. Less than hour into the event, unprecedented demand meant extra staff had to be drafted in to help on the stand and the waiting list grew longer and longer for those desperate to get behind the wheel.
While plenty of other car marques struggled, with a winning combination of attractive models, impressive quality and straightforward pricing, Dacia already boasted 5,000 orders for its Duster SUV and Sandero within just eight weeks of them arriving in showrooms in January.
In April and May, it put the cat amongst the pigeons with two more milestones. First, it confirmed prices for its Volvo-estate load-rivalling Logan MCV (Maximum Capacitiy Vehicle). A steal from just £6,995, it continues to undercut anything close by thousands of pounds. Then in May, the chunky Sandero Stepway supermini crossover hit UK showrooms, from only £7,995.
And the success didn’t end there. The brand immediately hit the awards trail, driving off with some of the most prestigious titles in the car industry. In its first year. Even before most had even seen one, Duster picked up the overall Scottish Car of the Year trophy, while its smaller sibling, Sandero followed up the SUV’s success, by snaffling “Best Budget Car” several months later. The new car buyers’ bible, What Car?, wasn’t slow to spot the brand’s potential either. In only its launch month it honoured Sandero with “Best Supermini under £12,000”. Among other noteworthy trophies throughout the year were several for Duster’s 4×4 and towing abilities, including Caravan Club and Towcar, plus a hat-trick from Carbuyer.co.uk, including Car of the Year, for its “sensational value”.
In pure sales terms, the figures speak for themselves in 2013:
- Dacia – the fastest growing car brand in UK, overall and in retail
- The most successful UK car brand launch in retail ever (based on initial 12 months sales)
- 17,146 sales with a market share of 0.76% – with only two models initially (Duster and Sandero). Sandero Stepway arrived in May and Logan MCV in September
- With a full four-model line up in the final four months of the year it outsold brands like Mazda and Volvo in retail
- 96.7% of Dacia sales are in the retail market where it has a share of 1.4%
So, the best-selling Dacia in 2013 was? Unsurprisingly, given its unrivalled price, size and 4×4 versions, Duster led the way with 7,830 sales. Following not far behind was the all-new Sandero. Offering supermini levels of space for city car cash, unsurprisingly, the “UK’s most affordable new car”, went down a storm, finding 5,025 homes. Both got chased down rapidly by Sandero Stepway too, after its launch in May, with 3,770 sales. The last one to join the “shockingly affordable” fold, the load-swallowing Logan MCV estate, notched up 521 in its initial 14 weeks in showrooms.
The omens aren’t looking too shabby so far for Dacia in 2014 either. Funny that. Having sold more than 17,000 cars in 2013, with an ever-growing fanbase and four models available to tempt British buyers for the full year, it’s setting its sights on smashing that figure this year.