French car maker Renault on Wednesday put homegrown sports utility vehicle manufacturers Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors on red alert with the launch of its entry-level SUV Duster at an aggressive price of Rs 7.19 lakh for the base petrol variant and Rs 1.29 lakh for the top-of-the-line diesel model.
Showcased at the New Delhi Auto Expo in January, Duster is the first of a series of compact SUVs slated to be launched in India. It is a emerging segment that has grabbed the attention of auto-makers. Ford’s EcoSport and Maruti’s indigenous SUV based on the Swift platform are in the queue. Toyota and General Motors are also interested.
“The Duster is a global success for Renault with sales of over 300,000 units,” said Marc Nassif, managing director, Renault India. “It will be an understatement to say this is an important product for us. The Duster is central to our strategy to increase our footprint in India, which we have already identified as one of the important markets around the world. There will be no success for Renault globally, if we dont succeed in India.”
Available with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and two variants of a 1.5-litre diesel engine tuned for high performance or high fuel economy, the Duster will compete directly with SUVs like Mahindra Scorpio and Tata Safari, as also sedans like Hyundai Verna and Volkswagen Vento. With its global technology and sleek packaging, Renault believes it will also lure customers from other segments such as the Xylo, which is below it, and the higher XUV 500.
The Duster’s production will not be restricted to India. By the end of this year, Renault plans to export it to right-hand-drive markets like the UK.
“This vehicle gives all the features of a compact sedan with the versatility and flexibility of an SUV,” said Len Curran, vice president sales and marketing, Renault India. “The potential is huge. We do not have a target but will supply as many numbers as the market wants.”
The vehicle has got nearly 4,000 bookings, and with 6 months to go, may account for a majority of Renault’s target of 30,000 unit sales this year. It will also launch one more car — a sedan based on alliance partner Nissan’s Sunny — by Diwali.Tata and Mahindra, which have for long ruled the sub Rs 10 lakh SUV space, are not sitting idle. Tata will launch a refurbished Safari Storme this month, and Mahindra plans a sub-4-metre Xylo variant by Diwali. The latter is expected to take the battle to the small cars in much the same way as the Scorpio hit sedans a decade ago.