On July 28, Sofasa, the Colombian Renault assembler, invited dozens of journalists from Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador to its Medellín factory for the 'launch' of the Logan in Andean countries.

However, as it turned out, the 'launch' was just a 'static reveal' to show the car and to confirm it would go on sale in the last few months of this year. There was no word on pricing, but a car bigger than the Twingo and Symbol can't be cheaper than those two.

So it was really a no-news event, but lunch was good.

The show left a weird taste in this writer's mouth: why did Renault spend that amount of money on just a 'pre-launch'?

Knowing how Renault does things here in Colombia, the launch strategy for the Megane II comes to mind: it was planned for November 2004 but Renault began to make some noise months earlier when Mazda launched the 3 here.

It's much the same deal with the Logan - Renault was trying to attract publicity away from Chevrolet's newly-launched Aveo (assembled in Venezuela from GM-Daewoo-supplied CKD kits).

Colombian sales decreased 3.1% to 11,658 cars, according to Econometría which compiles sales data in conjunction with new vehicle importers and assemblers. Year to date, 77,083 new vehicles have been sold, 26.5% more than in the first seven months of 2004.

Importers' sales now exceed those made by local assemblers and account for a 52% market share.

Chevrolet (GM-Daewoo and Opel-designed) continues to lead with 28,313 sales and 36.7% market share followed by Renault (12,515 and 16.2%), Hyundai (9.347/12.1%), Mazda (5,231/6.8%) and Toyota (4,198/5.4%).

Even though Nissan does not report sales to the industry statisticians, its sales are close to Japanese rival Toyota, and are increasing due to the tariff reduction resulting from the G3 free trade agreement.

Juan Vargas