After Renaud Pirel (Renault Entry Range Sales & Marketing Director) in Paris a year ago, I had the chance to speak at the Frankfurt Auto Show with François Mariotte, General Manager, Dacia Sales and Marketing, once again thanks to Frédéric Favre, Dacia Press Relations Manager. See also: Paris Auto Show 2014: An exclusive interview with Dacia
BSCB: 2015 is a consolidation year in France for Dacia…
François Mariotte: You are taking the words out of my mouth! I’ll go even further than you: our market share is declining this year in France. So what’s going on? There are very logical explanations. In late 2013 we launched the Duster Phase II which was such a huge success that we actually struggled to keep up with demand. Delivery times got out of hand and we continued to register these new Dusters well into 2014. We’re talking 4.300 additional Dusters ordered in 2013 but delivered during the first half of 2014. We are now seeing the mechanical return to a more ‘normal’ level of Duster sales. The other reason is the fact that currently in France private sales are flat, but fleet, rental and tactical sales are up. We don’t sell to fleet – 85% of our sales are private sales – so we are mechanically penalised in terms of market share. However we have more orders in 2015 than a year ago, so we are not worried for the future. For example, the Duster is still the best-selling SUV in its category above such established models as the Peugeot 3008, Nissan Qashqai or VW Tiguan.
BSCB: Staying on private sales for a second, will the Sandero be the favourite car for French private buyers in 2015?
François Mariotte: The Sandero is just below the Renault Clio, even if we have ranked #1 for a very short period. It is more logical that the Clio remains above the Sandero in France. What I am specially proud of is the fact that the Sandero outsells the Peugeot 208 in private sales at home. We are also the #4 brand in French private sales below just Renault, Peugeot and Citroen and above Volkswagen. With the limited range that is ours, I believe this is an exceptional performance.
BSCB: Dacia’s newest market is Israel. How do you analyse your sales performance there?
François Mariotte: I cover the Dacia brand worldwide, we are present in 44 countries mainly in Europe and on the Mediterranean basin up to Israel where Dacia launched this January. We are about to hit 1 percentage point market share or 1.800 registrations there in just 8 months with only one showroom in Tel Aviv and in a market where 75% of sales go to automatic transmissions – something we don’t offer just yet! We are very happy with this start. At Frankfurt we are launching our first-ever automated manual transmission, the Easy-R, fitted with computer-controlled electromechanical actuators that perform a surrogate role for the driver, declutching, changing gear and then re-engaging the clutch. So it’s not exactly an automated gearbox but it offers the convenience of a manual gearbox without a clutch pedal, and the driver can still decide when to select and change gears by selecting the manual mode. This will help us a lot in Israel notably.
BSCB: Why launching a whole new brand, Dacia, in Israel instead of commercialising the range under the Renault brand as you do in Egypt for example?
François Mariotte: We at Dacia tend to enter markets where the Renault brand is strong already, with a well established sales network and significant volume. Israel fit the bill, partly because our importer there Carasso Motors, is I believe the oldest Renault importer in the world! (BSCB note: Renault ranks #10 in Israel with slightly more than 3% market share both in 2014 and 2015 YTD). We have a clear positioning where we do not target the same clientele as Renault, we have very low prices and we do not do discounts – and therefore we don’t sell to fleet or rentals (BSCB: fleet/rental sales represent roughly 40% of the total Israeli market). This makes the Dacia offer a very complementary one to Renault in Israel. And in fact the Dacia Tel Aviv showroom, the only one in the country, is a standalone showroom completely separate to Renault. The result is this year Dacia has not cannibalised Renault sales in Israel.
BSCB: What are the next steps in Dacia’s commercial life?
François Mariotte: We are celebrating 10 years of the new Dacia. In that very limited amount of time we have launched in 44 markets seven models including five that have been renewed in the past two years. We sold 3.5 million vehicles – keeping in mind in the first year we only sold 25.000, last year we sold 511.000 (BSCB: for the Dacia brand only, not the Global Access range) and this year we are up 6.5% so far. Are we going to keep growing like this? You were using the word “consolidation” before, and that’s the right word. We are not aiming at enlarging our range indefinitely to, say, 15 models. We have a high volume strategy, not a niche strategy in order to achieve such low prices – a Dacia is at the same price as a high end bike with the best lock available.
Secondly, we are not aiming at becoming a worldwide brand. 50% of the Global Access range is sold under the Dacia brand, the other half is sold internationally (Russia, Brazil, etc.) under the Renault brand and we won’t go there. However we are constantly improving the technology: this year at Frankfurt we have modernised engines, the EasyR gearbox I spoke about earlier and we added stop and start to our models, protecting our customers from high CO2 emissions sanctions. The success of the Dacia brand means our Romanian factory is used at capacity with 3 daily shifts working 6 days out of 7. Our Moroccan factory is only 3 years-old and we have just added a night shift on September 1 to be able to meet demand. Now, a total of 2.400 vehicles are produced every day: 1.400 in Romania and 1.000 in Morocco. Thanks to this added production capacity, we will have another record year in 2015: so far 19 out of our 44 markets are at all-time high volumes this year.
BSCB: Are you planning to expand into further markets?
François Mariotte: Not immediately. We still have a lot of work to do to establish the Dacia brand which is an extremely young brand. Even in France, there are still people that have never heard of Dacia. We need to change this, continue to improve or notoriety and familiarity.
BSCB: Has the Renault Group position changed on the Kwid – i.e. will we also see it in Europe and in the Mediterranean basin as a Dacia?
Click on “Read more” below for the Full interview.