In crushing news for the competition, but smile-inducing for value-conscious Brits, the ever ambitious Dacia marque has already smashed the 1,000 UK pre-order mark for Duster. Three months before it even launches in showrooms properly. And, the best bit? It’s achieved the impressive feat before a single buyer has driven a right-hand-drive UK-specification car on British soil.
Dacia’s only been on the scene in Western Europe for a few years, but its already taken the market by storm. Something plenty of holidaymakers will no doubt testify to, having seen hordes of privately-owned Dusters and Sanderos zipping around everywhere from the chic streets of Paris and Berlin, to the Med.
After an anxious wait, Renault’s “smart buy brand” is now looking to shake up the UK car market. In a big way. How’s it going to do it? Simple. By offering Duster, a compact SUV, priced from £8,995, for less than many entry-level superminis. Even its higher end diesel-engined versions with 4×4 ability, are thousands of pounds cheaper than other all-wheel-drive alternatives. As if that’s not enough to send its rivals running for the hills, to ram home its stunning affordability, its just announced prices for its sister model, the all-new Sandero. Not to be outshone by its bigger sibling, this smart-looking five-door supermini sports an equally jaw-dropping price tag. From £5,995, it’s the most affordable new car on sale in the UK. Bar none.
It’s safe to say that Duster fever is already sweeping the nation. In little more than 100 days since pre-orders opened via www.dacia.co.uk and its 135 UK Dacia Retailers, Europe’s fastest-growing automotive brand has already bagged 1,000 pre-orders. In fact, at the rate orders are coming in, it’s looking like the £100 refundable deposit paid by the initial batch of canny Duster buyers might be the wisest investment they’ve made all year. They’re not the only ones to spot the SUV’s appeal in its latest markets either. Renault’s Indian subsidiary, where the UK’s Dusters will be built, has already taken over 20,000 orders of its own in just three months. To say they’re selling like hot naans would be a slight understatement. What makes the UK order tally so remarkable, is that savvy buyers are so eager to secure their high-quality, yet affordable Duster, that they’re willing to part with their cash before they’ve even got comfy behind the wheel. It’s unlikely they’ll be disappointed, given the stack of awards the brand’s flagship has collected since launch. But, even so, until now the only potential customers who’ve had the pleasure of driving Duster in the UK, are a lucky few who won the chance to sample German versions at the Moving Motor Show when it launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this year.
The high Duster UK pre-order figure is one thing. What makes equally compelling reading are some of the buyer patterns which are emerging. Whether it’s the contrast between rural and urban buyers, or even the high demand for top-spec versions, including 4x4s, Dacia’s SUV seems to have oodles of class-defying, not to mention kerb, appeal. Contrary to what you might expect, given its striking £8,995 entry price, the highest proportion of orders to date are for top-of-the-range Lauréate versions, to the point that they make up well over half of the total. It’s a similarly rosy picture with 4×4 orders too. This hasn’t come as a surprise to Dacia, given that these high-specification versions, packing several in-demand items, like air conditioning and alloy wheels, still come at mid-range supermini prices, starting from as little as £12,995. It also mirrors the success story in other Western European countries. In each of them, buyers have tended to treat themselves, either because it’s their first brand new car, having only been able to stretch to a used one before, or, more worryingly for other car marques, because they’re downsizing from more expensive products, but still hanker after certain features. At the other end of the parting with your cash scale, lots of buyers seem quite taken with the prospect of owning a new, trusty workhorse for as little outlay as possible. Ample proof that there’s a gap in the market for a functional car with a good-sized boot and interior, the £8,995 Access is already accounting for nearly a sixth of total orders. So far, this budget-conscious ideal seems to cover everything from a second car on the driveway to double up as a first car for a new driver, right through to a bread and butter, frugal family car for the school run and supermarket load-up.
Unlike many a rival compact SUV, Duster is inherently capable of more than just “Chelsea tractor” duty. Showing that its buyers clearly have every confidence in its off-road ability, and that many aren’t just going to be climbing kerbs in suburbia, a substantial one third of current orders have been for the mud-plugger. Mind you, that’s not a huge leap of faith. Firstly, Duster boasts a proven 4×4 system. Secondly, like every Dacia, it’s designed to be extremely tough. It comes as second nature to a car which is built to take the wild extremes of global weather and terrain in its stride, in destinations as far flung as Brazil, Columbia, India and Russia.
As well as the intricacies of individual buyers, one of the most intriguing aspects to the Duster pre-orders is where they’ve come from. In fact, Duster’s reputation seems to precede it whether you live in Londonderry or London. Topping the sales chart, and by quite a healthy margin, are the Welsh, with Cardiff and Swansea postcodes dominating. Whether that means their SUVs are going to be a common sight up and down the Gower coastline, or the kerbs of the Kingsway in the latter, who knows. But, one thing’s for sure. Much like its national rugby union team’s Grand Slam earlier in the year, the Welsh are off to a flyer. Mind you, the canny Scots aren’t too far behind either. On the back of Duster’s recent Scottish Car of the Year hat-trick, including the overall title, they block out three other places in the top 10. In England, Liverpudlians seems to have fallen for Duster’s charms hook line and sinker. Closely followed by an eclectic mix of wannabe owners up and down the country, from as far afield as Brighton, Kettering, Middlesborough and Yeovil. Completing the picture are the Northern Irish. Unsurprisingly, there the largest Dacia Retailer, Belfast, is leading the charge.
One of the cornerstones of Dacia’s success, is its elimination of the unnecessary. By doing so, it gives customers the chance to just pay “for what they value”. It’s already working well for Duster in the UK. The first signs are clear for all to see in the huge demand for options, accessories and extended warranties. A whopping two thirds, for example, have ticked the box for one or more accessory on their new pride and joy.
Commenting on the brand’s impressive early UK success, Dacia’s Marketing Director, Phil York, said, “We always knew Dacia had the potential to tap into a stagnant UK new car market. Our Duster flagship is off to a great start even before we’ve received our first right-hand-drive shipment. We’ve jealously watched our European neighbours sell Dacias by the thousand over the last few years, so it’s not just great for us, but more importantly for British buyers, that there’s a new “smart buy” in the car market.
“And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve just taken the wraps off the eagerly-awaited new Dacia Sandero supermini, ready for it to tempt customers into Dacia Retailers in January alongside Duster. All at “shockingly affordable” prices, with attractive styling, frugal and efficient engines, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that we’re confident the British public will take Dacia to their hearts.”