Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 24th September 2018

Over the years, the car industry in Romania has gone through peaks and valleys. During the Communist period, Romania was one of the largest motor producers in Central and Eastern Europe, but the industry declined in 1989 after the revolution. This hasn’t stopped Romanian manufacturers like Automobile Dacia from bouncing back and establishing an export reputation. One of the company’s boldest efforts was the Dacia 1300, or Denem as it became known in the UK. We’re charting the history of the Denem to see how it was made.

A Romanian Renault 12

During the 1960s, the Romanian government were keen to westernise the country by designing a version of a western car. The agreed terms were that the vehicle had to be big enough for a family and not expensive. The Renault 12 acted as the base for a prototype that became the Dacia 1100. Development took place in Mioveni and the first Dacia 1300 was ready by 1969.

When the Dacia was launched, it stood out immediately from its Eastern Bloc rivals. The 1300 had good performance, a comfortable interior and reliability. Sales were strong, though as the Romanian economy started to decline, the 1300 received various changes to keep it relevant.

Failure to make an impact

In 1980, the car became known as the 1310 and was billed as the Denem in the UK. Made available to the British public in 1982, the Denem went on the market at the same time as the Ford Sierra. Slogans such as the ‘new name in family cars’ and ‘the very acceptable Dacia Denem’ were used during the marketing campaign.

The Denem was priced at £3190, while rivals like the Lada 1200 and Skoda Estelle 1200L were considered cheaper. At the time, the Loda and Estelle were being sold for £2499 each. It could be argued the Denem provided a better performance, but the car failed to sell well.

The failure of the Denem highlighted the different attitudes between the West and East. UK families didn’t want to drive a car that had been built for Communist Party members. The Denem stopped being produced in 1984.

However, Dacia didn’t give up on the UK market, choosing to introduce the ARO 10 as the Duster. The Duster had an off-road appearance that the public took to and it sold well.

The Denem is an example of a car that performed well in its home market, but didn’t make much of an impact in other places.

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