Denis Le Vot, a longtime Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance executive, was tapped in 2020 by Renault Group CEO Luca de Meo to lead the automaker’s newly combined Dacia-Lada business unit. De Meo has charged Le Vot with expanding Dacia’s model range from small cars to the more profitable compact segments, starting with the new Jogger seven-seat family car, and continuing with the Bigster compact SUV -- all while keeping Dacia’s famously low base prices. He spoke with Automotive News Europe News Editor Peter Sigal at Renault’s headquarters outside of Paris.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, but before the group suspended activities in Russia, where Ladas are built and mostly sold, on March 23.
The Dacia Jogger, available with seven seats, has been getting great reviews from the automotive press. Where are your expectations for it as a new addition to your lineup?
The truth is, I don't know. Our quest right now is to enter the C [compact] segment. So far, the Dacia brand has been kind of compressed in the Renault Group as having the role of the B [small] segment, and we are already the best-selling retail brand in Europe, just playing in the B segment. But the C segment is also big. The TIV [total industry volume] is about 1.5 million.
The Jogger’s starting price is about 15,000 euros, which is very different from other seven seaters in the segment. So, I think there is a great potential for the car. With the Jogger, we are addressing families. We have a history there -- many people have [discontinued Dacia] Dokkers and Lodgys. So, there is potential for repeat buyers but at the same time, the Jogger offers something new, and we want to capture that. With new emissions and pollution regulations coming, family-size passenger vans are very bad in terms of CO2, and seven-seat crossovers are going to be heavy vehicles as full-hybrids or plug-in hybrids, and prices will keep going up. That is why the Jogger, with a starting price of 15,000 euros, is already very different from the competition.
One of the main challenges for the auto industry in the last year has been the shortage of semiconductors. Will you be able to meet demand for the Jogger?
Dacia probably had a loss of about 100,000 cars last year from the shortage. But at the same time, our order portfolio has grown by the same amount. We had 37,000 orders on Jan. 1, 2021, and on Jan. 1, 2022, it was more than 130,000. So we could say that everything that we estimate we have lost, actually we haven't lost. We just have clients waiting, although we are not happy about that. On top of the shortage, we see that cars are getting more expensive, with the prices of raw materials going up, and the more that happens, the more people come to Dacia.
What is Dacia’s average delivery time now?
We still estimate that the first half of 2022 will be difficult and that potentially the second half will begin to improve, which is to say that suppliers will increase their production capacity. On delivery times, we are now between three to four months, depending on the car. Our job now is to make it shorter, because even four months is very long.