Special Coverage

Auto Show

GENEVA – Automobile Dacia SA takes another big step forward at the auto show here, introducing its first stylish car, the Sandero hatchback, and a new logo that will go better with all colors of paint than the former, deep blue badge.

The Sandero, produced in Brazil, was introduced in the flesh after a preview presentation last fall in Frankfurt.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the hatchback, designed by parent Renault SA in France, has lines that are more fluid and modern than Dacia vehicles already on the market, including the Logan sedan, van, MCV and pickup.

According to designers, the Sandero’s lines came out of a skunkworks project, put privately into competition with the initial design for the car, which more simply grafted a hatch onto the rear end of a Logan sedan. When top managers saw the more sophisticated Sandero design, they approved it even though it was more expensive to make than the original idea.

The Dacia brand is growing in importance, says Beatrice Foucher, product planning chief for all of Renault’s brands. Sales in Europe were 230,000 units in 2007, up 17.4%.

Deliveries last year tripled in Germany to 15,517 units and rose 73% in France to 32,684 units, largely thanks to the MCV, an SUV-like model that accounts for 25% of Dacia sales. The pickup was introduced in Romania in January.

Dacia is sold in 51 countries now and will add Portugal, Sweden, Denmark and Finland this year.

Renault is expanding Dacia’s plant in Pitisti, Romania, so that it will reach output of 350,000 units this year, and a new factory in Tanger, Morocco, will be in place in 2010 to boost production for North Africa, now done in a kit factory in Casablanca.

Foucher says the Sandero is the new flagship of the Dacia marque for 2008. It is designed for five adults and measures 157.5 ins. (400 cm) long. Its 1.5L diesel engine makes 70 hp and emits just 120 g/km of carbon-dioxide, putting it in compliance with European targets. The diesel also is available in an 85-hp version.

In addition, the Sandero is offered with 75-hp and 90-hp 1.4L gasoline engines borrowed from the Logan.