Five years ago this month, a cheap car was unveiled here.
It was a Dacia Duster. It didn’t go on sale until January the following year but such was the splash of publicity about its price (€8,000 cheaper than a Qashqai, they claimed) that it stormed to 1,000 sales in 2013. The sales target had been 500.
Cleverly, in 2012, the distributors (it is sold at Renault dealerships) brought in 30 left-hand drive Dusters so people could try it out.
The family crossover’s arrival coincided with the depressing depths of our economic recession.
The Duster, however, made it possible to buy a new car, not as basic as you might think, for the price of a good second-hand motor – €15,000 or so. There were four airbags, Bluetooth and just 3-star NCAP ratings, and it relied on tried and trusted, second-generation Renault/Nissan technology, engines and chassis. We mopped it up.
It is only five years but so much has been transformed in that time. And despite apparent greater prosperity, the brand – now swollen by several models – has not suffered from being bargain basement.
Indeed, a glimpse at the figures (courtesy SIMI) reveals a year-on-year increase since its arrival.
In 2013, we bought 1,286; in 2014 it was 2,695 (1,610 Dusters); 2015 grew to 3,784 (1,795); 2016 to 4,386 (2,090 Dusters); so far this year 2,946 (1,440). So it has more than kept pace with recession and recovery.
Since the brand’s launch the amount loaned to those buying a new Dacia is almost €100m; there are 6,200 finance contracts. Nearly three in five (58pc) have taken out a PCP when buying a new Dacia this year. The most popular financed model is, of course, the Duster (53pc of retail contracts)
And, timely enough, there is a brand new Duster coming for next year. It will be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The dawn of another, hopefully as prosperous, era.