PARIS -- Renault has opened its new Dacia plant in Tangiers, Morocco. The factory will build the Lodgy minivan and an as-yet unnamed model for European and other markets.
The plant will have a annual capacity of 400,000 units by 2013 and will export 85 percent of its production to Europe, Africa, Mexico, and Middle East.
Europe, Dacia's biggest market, will take most of the vehicles.
The Tangiers facility complements Dacia's factory in Pitesti, Romania, which Renault said is at full capacity and will not produce the Lodgy.
A Renault spokesperson would not comment on output targets at the new facility, where Renault will also produce a new commercial van based on a Dacia platform in addition to the Lodgy, which it goes on sale later this year.
The plant's opening has generated a stir in France with critics accusing Renault of transferring jobs outside of the country, while ignoring the fact that the French government owns a 15 percent stake in the automaker.
"We see this factory as a dangerous development," said Fabien Gache, a spokesman for the CGT, Renault's dominant French union. "These vehicles are basically 'Loganized' Scenics and Kangoos," Gache said. "They're bound to hit the Renault brand's market share."
Renault said it has always based production of its low-cost Dacia brand cars outside of western Europe as part of its no-frills business model.
"The question of building this factory in western Europe didn't even arise," Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a radio interview ahead of the plant opening ceremony on Thursday. "That would have been incompatible with the concept" of low-cost vehicles, he said.
Renault hopes the Lodgy will build on the success of its Dacia division. The estimated 10,000-12,000 euro entry price for the Lodgy, available in five- or seven-seater versions, compares with French prices starting from around 21,000 euros for a Renault Scenic or Volkswagen Touran, excluding special offers.