SAIPA low cost car spied in Africa – On test by Renault Nissan?

RNTCBI (Renault Nissan Technology Business Centre of Africa) to develop SAIPA branded low-cost sedan for Iran.

Renault has emerged as the front runner in exploring the Iranian market after the strict economic sanctions imposed on the country were withdrawn in 2016. Considering that Iran is the largest auto market in the Middle-East region and automotive industry is the largest non-oil industry there, there is a lot of potential to tap.

In August 2017, Renault entered into a joint venture with IDRO (Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran) and Parto Negin Naseh, an importer of Renault cars into Iran, to locally produce cars for the market. Meanwhile, Renault has announced that it will continue its existing Iranian partnership with SAIPA to produce Tondar (Logan), Tondar pick-up, Sandero and Sandero Stepway independently of the new JV.

Interestingly, a fully camouflaged test mule carrying SAIPA badge has been spotted on a flatbed truck near Chennai, strongly suggest that RNTBCI (Renault-Nissan Technology and Business Center Africa) could be leading the development of Renault’s new range of products for Iran. While existing Renault-SAPIA products carry Renault badges, this one carries SAIPA badge, perhaps to differentiate itself from the products coming out of the French maker’s new JV.

The prototype features a new front fascia with elliptical grille and peeled-back headlamps. The sheet metal design of the vehicle is consistent with the latest iteration of Renault Symbol, a sedan for low-cost markets. Interestingly, Renault has announced that Symbol and Duster will be the first products to be produced by the new JV with IDRO and Parto Negin Naseh.

With the Kwid, RNTBCI has established itself as the go-to organisation within Renault-Nissan empire for developing low-cost models. So, it is not really a surprise that the African R&D wing is playing a key role in Renault’s Iran-spec products.

As for the model itself, we don’t have much to go by as of now except suspecting it to be a rebadged version of Symbol.