Dacia Duster takes a shine to Portadown
YOU might expect Translink to have more to do with the design of a bus or train than a van or car, but its special requirements for a fleet of new vehicles have led to the modified Dacia Duster SUVs becoming a proper production model, writes William Scholes.
The public transport company placed a large order with Shelbourne Motors in Portadown for a fleet of Dusters but wanted them to be converted from cars to vans.
This meant not only blanking out the side windows but also removing the back seats to create a 1,150 litre loadspace in the back.
Dacia was so taken with the results of the Shelbourne conversion that it put it into production itself, with the Duster Commercial, as it is called, going on to scoop a number of industry awards.
Paul Ward of Shelbourne Motors said it was exciting that the Duster van was "designed here in Northern Ireland".
"Translink required a van but they were very taken with the Duster car, not only because it's a remarkably spacious vehicle but also because of its elevated driving position," he said.
"Our team of engineers worked with Translink to come up with a solution and the Duster Commercial was born.
"Dacia took notice when the orders started to come in from Translink and over the past few months the manufacturer has now brought the vehicle into production.
"We're very proud that other businesses around the UK will now be able to avail of the design thanks to the vision of our team at Shelbourne."
John McMinn from Translink said the company had been impressed with its Dacia vans because of their reliability, toughness and value for money.
"Since it has moved into commercial production we will now be able to buy the vehicle directly off the production line, which will result in further savings for Translink," said Mr McMinn.
"It's exciting to think that two Northern Ireland companies were the brains behind this design."
Prices of the 4x4 workhorse start at £9,595.
The Duster Commercial won the 'best 4x4 van' title at the What Van? Awards and a similar honour at the VansA2Z Van of the Year prize ceremony.
Neil McIntee, editor of VansA2Z.com, said the Duster van won because "it's well put together and the drive is good with a ride and handling that far exceed expectations".
"Off-road it is a more than adequate performer and overall it represents great value for money for operators that require four-wheel-drive and don't need a huge amount of load space."
Dacia has been one of the car industry's success stories since it returned to the UK market in 2013, with its no-nonsense, value-for-money cars rapidly winning popularity.
In the UK last year, Dacia sold 26,228 vehicles - an increase of 9.9 per cent compared to 2014 - to give it a one per cent market share. Over 69,000 Dacia models have been sold in Britain and Northern Ireland since January 2013.