Dacia, Renault Group’s Romania-based budget-priced brand, has revamped its lineup substantially in the last year. Slower-selling models based on old platforms such as the Logan MCV station wagon and Lodgy minivan have been replaced by a tightly focused range: The Spring EV minicar, the new Sandero/Logan small cars on the modern CMF-B platform, an extensively refreshed Duster SUV for 2021, and the coming Jogger seven-seat family car, also on CMF-B and with the brand’s first hybrid option.
Denis Le Vot, a veteran Renault-Nissan Alliance executive who leads the new Dacia/Lada business unit, discussed how Dacia is making the transition to electrification and why it's more than just a “low-cost” brand with Automotive News Europe News Editor Peter Sigal at the Munich auto show.
Dacia’s lineup is nearly all-new this year, with the Spring EV and new Sandero launched in 2020, a facelifted Duster, and now the new Jogger. Are you hoping to outperform the market and gain volume?
We have done a decent job in the first half of the year; Sandero is the best-selling car on the retail market (in Europe) and the Duster is the best-selling retail SUV. So we are doing well for what we are, which is a retail brand. Our industrial capacity is already quite well utilized. We are more or less at full capacity at our Romanian plant with Duster and the new Jogger, but somewhat fewer Sanderos, because they are manufactured on a large scale in Tanger, Morocco, for the European market. We have even started Sanderos for non-European markets at our second Morocco plant in Casablanca. So we do not have a target for market share, but what is important is that we remain in a good position in the retail market.
Although the base price of the Duster is 11,990 euros, for example, Dacia sells many vehicles in higher trim levels. Is that something you are looking to build on?
This is the reality, but not the perception. You read that Dacia is a “low-cost” brand, but I do not consider it that way, in the sense that we sell only to people who will spend minimum amounts of money on a car. For example, yes, the Sandero starts at 9,000 euros, but then we have the crossover-ish Stepway version with more features, and it starts at 12,000 euros. Seventy-five percent of Sandero sales are the Stepway version. So it's not that we sell the cheapest cars in our range; it's that whatever Dacia you choose it's a great bargain compared to the competition.
The Jogger is not really a station wagon; it's not really a people-mover. Who are your buyers?
I like the fact that it's not really clear from the styling. But our proposal is clear: This is a family car. It starts with the five-seater version, which has 700 liters of cargo capacity, which is huge. You can easily fit two bicycles inside plus luggage. So if you travel with four or five people it answers most of what we had with the Lodgy and the Logan MPV. At the same time, it’s a real seven-seater. The third row seats weigh only 10 kg, so you can take them out or move them just like a pack of mineral water. You can use it to go on vacation with a family of seven. Of course the trunk is more limited but you can use the roof bars, which fold inward to make a rack, to carry your luggage on top. So the Jogger offers everything that is typically Dacia, but it's on the [Renault-Nissan] CMF-B platform [designed for small cars], which means that it weighs only 1.2 tons. The seven-seat competition will be derived from a cargo van or be a full crossover, so they will be much heavier, 350 or 400 kg more. That makes a difference because we can move the car with a 1.0-liter engine. Our dual-fuel LPG offering has a 1,100 km range with 121 grams per km of CO2. The weight of the car permits a small engine, and we can offer this at less than 15,000 euros.