Moroccan role

When Renault bought the Romanian automaker Dacia in 1999, they were thinking low-priced labor, something that couldn’t be had in France, although Dacia’s C-segment Logan and derivatives thereof, the price leaders among small family cars, are built in eight different locations, mostly because it’s not cost-effective to ship something that cheap. You won’t find the Logan in the States, neither Renault nor Dacia having any presence here, though Mexican buyers can get it as the Nissan Aprio, built in Brazil.

Logans for France and Spain are built in Casablanca, not so much for the waters, but because Morocco really, truly wanted an automobile plant of its own, and back in the 1950s the Moroccan government cut a deal with Fiat to build them a plant. Fiat eventually bailed, and Renault now owns 80 percent of the plant.

But now a second plant in Morocco, at the port of Tangier, has been opened, and Renault, nationalized after World War II and still 15-percent owned by the French Republic, is catching flak, mostly because the new Dacia Lodgy, a five- or seven-seat people mover to be built in Tangier, will sell for about half as much as Renault’s own Scénic:

“We see this factory as a dangerous development,” said Fabien Gache, head of French labor union CGT. “These vehicles are basically Loganized Scénics and Kangoos,” Gache said. “They’re bound to hit the Renault brand’s market share.” Even a former cabinet minister for [Nicolas] Sarkozy has accused Renault of “social dumping in Morocco”.

Renault’s current Kangoo is built in France, though the previous version is still being assembled in Casablanca for the Moroccan market.

For his part, Carlos Ghosn, who runs the Renault/Nissan combine, says that he never once considered building any Dacias in France, pretty much for cost reasons. If you thought the UAW was intractable and adamantine, they’re pushovers next to the French (and German) industrial unions.

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