Renault Logan: How to Build a Successful Cheap Car
We’ve previously mentioned the Renault Logan on this site (most recently here, in reference to a story that they will be sold as a Nissan in Mexico in the near future). Some have asked for more information about this car, so let’s get into it.
The Logan is built by Renault’s Dacia subsidiary in Romania and sold as a Dacia in most parts of the world where Renault has a presence, but as a Renault in Russia, China, and Venezuela. And, of course, in the very near future, as a Nissan Aprio (new name announced last week) in Mexico.
With the Logan, Renault has basically taken a page out of Henry Ford’s old playbook for the Model T – the key drivers are simplicity, reliability, and a price easily affordable to its target audience – originally car buyers in developing markets. Its simplicity and relatively high ground clearance make it both easy for the owner to repair himself and suitable for unpaved roads without damaging the car.
The Logan is regarded as a decent small car – it has a minimal amount of electronics (no ABS or stability control, for example) and an adequate if not overpowered engine (the base engine is a 1.4 liter 75-horsepower four cylinder). Its platform was developed from an existing Renault/Nissan small car platform, but was re-engineered to reduce its part count by 50%. The windshield is a flat piece of glass, which cuts down on costs and the likelihood of defects, and makes it easier to assemble. The dashboard is one large piece of injection molded plastic; the car’s exterior mirrors are the same part on the right or left side to reduce costs. The Dacia factory in Romania that assembles the Logan does not use any robots because labor is so inexpensive and the car is simple to build.
So, with all of the cost-reducing measures described above, how much does a new Logan cost? In developing countries, it’s sold for the equivalent of €5,000 (about $6,000). When buyers in Western Europe heard about the cheap new car that Renault was selling in the former Eastern Bloc, they clamored to have the car sold in their countries too, so it was eventually offered in Germany, France, and Spain. Buyers had to be put onto waiting lists just for the chance to buy a Logan (which was moderately upgraded for “developed” markets by adding a passenger airbag and three-year warranty and some other equipment, raising its price to about $9,300 – about half the price of a similarly sized Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Almost nothing is standard, including air conditioning, power windows, radio, and more, to keep the price down.
Production of the Logan began in 2004, and to date, more than 300,000 have been sold, with sales ramping up rapidly each of the past three years. Other manufacturers have certainly taken interest in the success story that the Logan has become; Volkswagen has considered building even a cheaper new car for the Chinese market, for example.
Would the Logan do well in the US? It’s hard to say – many folks are nostalgic for the days when a mechanic did not need a master’s degree in electrical engineering in order to tune up an engine, and modern cars get heavier, more powerful, and more feature-laden with each successive generation. The Logan is a step back from all of those trends, but unless someone absolutely HAS to have a new car, a buyer in the US would probably be better off studying the Full Metal Autos used car recommendations and getting a larger, more comfortable, slightly-used car. There still may be folks who want to make a statement by not making a statement with their cars, and the Logan might be exactly what those folks need.