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French Version

Romanian no-frills car takes on Mideast

Dacia's Logan model to be sold in developing markets

Dacia's compact Logan model hits Romanian streets on Thursday before heading to countries on four continents in a global test of Eastern European, developing nations and Middle East's industrial competitivity.

The "5,000 euro ($6,000) car" was developed by Dacia and French parent Renault for developing markets, and built after renovating the Romanian car maker's plant north of Bucharest. Beyond the domestic market, the Logan, which shares a basic platform with Nissan's Micra and motors with the Renault Clio, is set for Balkan countries as well as Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

After another roll-out at the Istanbul auto show in November, Renault's road map leads to Iran, China, North Africa and Latin America.

The French group will bolt its own nameplate on models sold in Asia and Latin America, as well as in Russia, "for historic reasons," said Luc Alexandre Menard, president of Dacia and Renault's Turkish division. In addition to the standard sedan, future versions are to include a station wagon and a pick-up.

In Colombia, Morocco and Russia, where Logan assembly plants are under construction, market launches are set for mid-2005.

"Around 60 tractor-trailors will leave Romania daily for the Renault factory in Russia," Menard said.

In Iran, two assembly lines are to produce the car in 2006, and the model is "part of the joint venture we are negotiating with China," he added.

Renault is sure of its industrial gamble, though some market analysts question if buyers in developing countries will want a bare-bones auto that shuns power steering, air-conditioning and electric windows.

In Romania, where Dacia has long been the dominant brand and 10,000 orders have already been placed for the Logan, executives hope the new model will bury the firm's reputation for cheap but unreliable cars.

Menard said sector specialists scoffed at Renault when it bought the Dacia plant in 1999 that had been turning out a Romanian version of the Renault 12 for 30 years.

"Since then we have invested more than 400 million euros to modernize Dacia in Pitesti, and our rivals intend to put the Logan's development plans for new markets in Europe and around the world under" scrutiny.

Beirut,09 13 2004
The Daily Star
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