The Logan needs expensive improvements before its sales start in western Europe

Cologne, Germany. The Logan, Renault's new low-cost car, needs some expensive improvements before its sales start in western Europe this summer.

The Romanian-built Logan's export version for western Europe will get a new suspension setup, new brakes and tires and reinforced doors.

The Logan showed serious weaknesses in Renault's internal crash tests. These need to be eliminated by mid March, which is when the Logan has to be certified by the German Insurance Association (GDV).

Renault officials are positive that they can pass the "Danner test" (rear end and front end impact at 15 km/h) at the Allianz Center for Technology in Munich.

Until then, the Logan will be classified as insurance type category 28. This means that full comprehensive insurance will cost as much for the Logan as for a Porsche 911.

Renault has to complete the improvements before the car's sales start on June 16 in Germany, France and Spain. Sales in the Benelux countries, Austria and Switzerland will follow in November.

Renault dealers in western Europe likely will not make great profits from selling the Logan.

During a visit to the Dacia plant in Pitesti, Romania, Renault's German dealer committee was told that margins on the Logan will be just five percent. This will be standard all over Europe.

Many Renault dealers in western Europe have started to import the Logan directly from Hungary or the Czech Republic, with prices starting at 6,650 euros.

But these gray market imports do not comply with western safety standards, as competitor Opel, which bought a few Logans for testing, discovered.

Renault's German importer expects to sell 3,000 Logans in 2005. The price for the basic model with a 1.4-liter gasoline engine with 75hp will be 7,250 euros. The Laureate top version with 90hp will cost 8,700 euros.

Competitors are reacting to the Logan's introduction in western Europe by offering cheaper versions of their models.

Skoda, for example, has plans for a basic version of its Fabia that should cost 8,500 euros.

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