A bit more about the Logan, the new built-in-Romania car that Renault hopes will be the developing world's Model T. First, here's a picture:
-- It is the most labor-intensive car being produced on a large scale anywhere. Wages in Romania are very low -- less than a tenth of French wages. So, for a lot of the assembly work, it's cheaper to use a lot of workers than to invest in industrial robots or whatever. So the Logan is, by modern standards, almost a hand-made car. -- Despite that, the Dacia factory in Pitesti shed more than half of its workers between 1996 and 2003, slimming down from more than 15,000 to around 6,700. Some of the workers found jobs elsewhere, but many did not. Apparently Renault's relationship with the locals remains... complex. -- Much of the Logan is made elsewhere, shipped to Romania, and assembled at the Pitesti plant. However, Renault would like to have more components assembled in Romania... if quality can be assured, which apparently is still an open question. The Romanian government is hoping that eventually there will be a constellation of auto parts suppliers all around Pitesti. Exactly this has happened in the last few years in Slovakia and northern Hungary; this region, nobody's candidate for an economic boom ten years ago, has become a buzzing hive of manufacturing activity. On the other hand, they have four or five large factories, while Pitesti only has one. So the secondary manufacturing picture is still murky at this point. -- The Pitesti factory is the first one to produce the Logan, but it won't be the last. Renault wants to build factories in Russia, Columbia, and Iran. It's all part of the "western car for an eastern price" strategy; they want to sell cheap, reliable Logans all over the developing and post-Communist world. But for the next couple of years, at least, all the planet's Logans will come from Pitesti. -- Renault recently announced that it will also sell Logans in developed countries. This seems a bit odd to me, since the whole point of the exercise was to produce a rugged good cheap car for the emerging middle classes of the east. But maybe Renault knows something I don't. -- Three years ago, Romania passed a law stating that no car older than eight years could be imported into the country. Officially, this was because older cars were dirtier, less fuel-efficient, and less safe, and also Romania wanted to move quickly towards European standards on things like fuel emissions. I have heard a theory that the government did this as part of a deal with Renault to create a captive market for the late-model Dacias -- the SupeRNova, the Solenza, and especially the Logan. After all, very few Romanians can afford new European or American cars; almost everyone is buying either secondhand imported cars, or Dacias. On the other hand, I've also had a Romanian tell me that this is a dusty pile of nonsense, and that the law was just another stupid, over-broad, poorly thought out attempt to be "European". [shrug] We don't know. -- Nobody can tell me where the name "Logan" comes from. I'm sure there must be a good reason. (I do notice that it's a name whose pronunciation will be pretty much the same in Bucharest, Moscow, Bogota and Delhi.) If any of our Romanian friends have driven a Logan, or have anything to tell us about it, we'd be very interested to hear.