Cars are too expensive. Discuss.

A couple of things made me think of this. I was having a periodic clear out and at the bottom of the filing cabinet found a copy of Automotive News International dated May 2001. 

Tempted to bin it, I flicked through and found a feature on Dacia, headlined ‘Fixing Dacia – the plant where time stood still’ which I had written following a plant visit to Dacia’s decrepit factory in Pitesti, Romania, earlier that year.

In the late 1990s, then Renault boss Louis Schweitzer had frequently commented that cars were getting too expensive. A solution had to be found. His answer was to buy Dacia with which Renault had ties since 1966 when it granted a licence to the state company to build the Renault 8 and Renault 12.

The plan by 2001 was to build a EUR5,000 car (about EUR7,000 in today’s money). 

A friend who in the early 1990s held the Hyundai franchise locally, spotted I was driving a Dacia last month and was intrigued by the proposition. 

He reminded me that the Hyundai Elantra, seen as a cheap and cheerful form of transport in the early 1990s cost, he assured me, £9,995. (He’s the sort of dealer who can probably recall the profit he made on every car he sold). If for the sake of argument we call the year 1992, that is the equivalent of £17,350 today.

And here we have Dacia selling robust cars with all the safety equipment that cars 20 years ago didn’t have, for £8,995 for the Duster and £7,395 for the Sandero.

That’s not too far off the target price set more than a decade ago and, all things considered, a remarkable achievement.

Tony Lewis
Tony Lewis
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