Newsflash: Dacia Jogger straks ook te koop in Camper uitvoering


+++ A CAMPER VAN variant of the Dacia Jogger is in the pipeline, the firm has confirmed, in line with a focus on the ‘outdoors’ appeal of its cars. “We are working on it and it should come quite soon”, said Lionel Jaillet, Dacia’s vice president for product, but he did not confirm whether it will be a stand-alone model or an accessory pack. “This is clearly in our philosophy: trying to extend the level of outdoor activities that our customers can do with our cars, and the Jogger has exactly the right spirit for what we call the ‘social outside’ ”, he said. Jaillet added that the future applications for a leisure-focused Jogger would allow customers to enjoy being with family and friends “using the outdoors”. However, the form in which this could appear, be it a stand-alone variant or an accessory pack, was described as “not yet defined”. The Jogger is based on the same platform as the Sandero Stepway. Its rear-most, third row of seating can be completely removed, leaving significant space in the back for potential living quarters. The Dacia brand is no stranger to adventure-focused variants. The Duster received a rugged Extreme SE specification level in February. A bespoke entry into the leisure segment could help further bolster the firm’s sales growth. Such a model would fall in line with the company’s plans to offer rugged, outdoor-led specifications over sporty or luxury model variants. “Our playground is ‘outdoor’. You can expect some outdoor variants of our cars in the coming months and years, but not luxury or sporty ones”, said Marc Suss, the firm’s vice president of engineering. +++

+++ The DACIA JOGGER has been called the firm’s “safest ever” model by the company’s engineering bosses, after the seven-seater was given a one-star Euro NCAP safety rating last week. The Jogger, which shares the same platform as the smaller Dacia Sandero Stepway SUV, was awarded the rating because it lacks suitable electronic safety assistance features and does not have a seatbelt reminder for its third row of seats. Marc Suss, Dacia’s vice president of engineering, said: “This is the result of our choices. We did not implement a seatbelt reminder on the third row because when you want to extract the seats, you need to disconnect and reconnect some electronic features. “This is not what we call essential. We made the choice to keep it simple for our customers. Each time we are putting a new car on the market, it is the safest Dacia ever. It is far safer than the Logan and other cars. Even compared to most of the cars in the market, we are providing cars with a level of safety features that are far above”. The Romanian firm further reiterated its decision to remove unnecessary or unwanted features from its vehicles, despite growing pressure from safety legislation organisations. The omission of “unwanted or unnecessary features” forms a part of its ‘Smart Engineering’ strategy, which, the firm says, involves disrupting the industry with “serial game-changers” with a focus on simplicity, frugality, sustainability and durability. The Jogger has been engineered to be as cost-effective as possible, with bosses highlighting its fixed-displacement airconditioning unit and technology that means the entire front end forward of the B-pillar is shared between the Sandero and the Jogger. The Jogger’s rear lights have also been positioned vertically and separately from the tailgate to reduce costs, while stickers replace traditional plastic parts to protect the lower doors. Lionel Jaillet, Dacia’s vice president for product performance, said: “Currently, the customer’s requests are evolving. They are joining the Dacia mindset of going to the essentials. They want more simplicity and frugality. “Our challenge is to redefine the essentials of the C-SUV segment, which is a huge segment and a huge profit maker. We think we have a good recipe to challenge this segment”. The firm also ruled out the introduction of sporty or luxury Dacia model variants in the near future, instead focusing on rugged, outdoor specifications. Suss said: “Our playground is not ‘luxury’. Our playground is not ‘sportiness’. Our playground is ‘outdoor’. You can expect some outdoor variants of our cars in the coming months and years, but not luxury or sporty ones”. +++

+++ Peaking at high registrations in 2007 but recording a rcord low last year, HONDA has endured a tougher past 15 years than most. But those challenges have also forced it to move quickly and with agility, and even prior to the pandemic, it had pivoted its focus from volume to profit. Here, Honda managing director Jean-Marc Streng and head of automobiles Rebecca Adamson discuss the health of the business, how profits will dominate their strategy going forwards, why an agency retail model is possible and why they believe their move to electrification is perfectly timed. Question: What does the future look like for the small main car dealer? You seem to be less constrained by supply than many of your rivals? Answer: “Yes, that’s true. At the beginning of 2021, we had more than 10.000 cars in stock, as we didn’t cut our stocks. With an 8-week shipping time, we foresaw that having availability would be crucial. “Don’t get me wrong, we have felt pain, but maybe later than some, from September time last year. But this year we expect to have more stock than last year, so there’s progress ahead, we think”. Queston: Was that good planning on your part in terms of stocking and ordering or because Honda was better able to manage the chip crisis? A: “It’s probably a combination of both. From our side, we were determined to move our volume up from 2020 to 2021, and so when the time came to place our orders, we were ambitious. You can see the results of that in our market share figures now, and the best news is that our order bank is growing at the same time. Like everyone trying to build back, it hasn’t been a smooth path and every issue you have feels magnified, as you’re so determined to get back on an upward curve, not step back again. But the clearest positive we have is that customers are very buoyant. They like our cars, there’s a clear enthusiasm for the new vehicles we’re launching and we’re building momentum. There will be tough moments ahead, but that’s what should give us the most motivation. We have the right products for our customers”. Q: How long is an acceptable wait for a customer to get their car? A: “I’d say 12 weeks, and as an average, that’s about where we are. Some we can deliver quicker, some you might have to wait a little longer. But overall we’re there. That’s a big shift, and it has taken some hard changes in mindset to get there. It used to be that we had cars sitting in a port and we could deliver them in a week or 2. Now we’ve shifted from chasing registrations to responding to customer order intake, and I think it really took us 12 months to believe in that model. It’s not easy, but by focusing on customer demand, rather than pushing registrations, we have changed our business. It’s a much more efficient way to manage supply and meet customer needs”. Q: Are customers happy to wait? A: “Yes, if they’re getting the car they want to the spec they want, as long as the supporting communication is strong then they are. The bumps in the supply chain can make those communications hard for a global business, but we’re improving and learning all the time. We can plan, too. Lease cycles lend themselves to consumer planning, and one of our advantages is that our business today is about 80% retail. We’re very open to taking unexpected orders, of course, but the majority we can plan for, and even then, given our retail mix, the surprises will come in small numbers, not bulk orders for 500 cars out of nowhere”. Q: How have the dealers adapted to the focus on profit? A: “Actually, we started this move prior to Covid, and I think that has put us in a good place now. It was a shift in approach, but it was one that not only quite quickly improved profitability but also moved it ahead of the industry average. Balancing volume and profit was quite radical back then, but it meant they enjoyed the rewards earlier. It means we and they are in good shape. All I’d add is that for all that, it’s not easy. We need a very high level of mutual trust and respect to make this work. We can explain the rationale and position it as what’s best for the long-term health of the business, but we have to look each other in the eye and know that if either says they will do something, they actually will. Add into that the fact that anything we do today may change tomorrow, because of the kind of world we are living in, and then there will always be things we can improve. But the fact is we’re building a mutually beneficial partnership like never before”. Q: Does that automatically lead to an agency model? A: “It’s a conversation. That doesn’t mean it will or won’t happen, but of course we’re considering it, just as we are subscription models, wider mobility solutions and so on. Anything that’s a potential channel for better business is open for discussion. “In this industry right now you’ve got 2 choices. You can stay as you are and see where that leaves you, or you can adapt and seek to thrive. We prefer to look at all of the options that are coming. What’s key though is how you do it. We announced a 30% reduction in our network, but we took 2 years to do it as we believed that is the right way. And if we decided in the future that agency was the right way, it would be done in discussion with our retail partners, our investors, and it would only be possible if it was mutually viable. If they didn’t want to come with us on that move then it wouldn’t be possible. Wherever that discussion leads, our operation is only possible with physical representation operated by expert retailers. So we need to make sure that those expert retailers and those quality retailers are engaged with whatever proposal we move to”. Q: What do you see as the potential advantages of agency? A: “If it’s to work, we have to make the customer journey seamless, from online to dealership to ownership and back, always with us joining each step together and ideally acting on something before they even think it, such as when to renew a lease. That’s not just online but in person, too, and I think it’s too easy to downplay the human side of it. That’s in part because we have to be more flexible to how the customer wants to buy and at what point in their buying journey they come to us. Traditionally, we’ve looked at a rigid funnel of how a customer will come to us. That model simply doesn’t exist anymore, and we have to adapt to that change. One positive from our side is that we’re entering this period of consideration at the right size. We’ve consolidated our network geographically, and we’re close to the spread of dealerships we want and need to succeed. In contrast, we can see other manufacturers are held back because they haven’t addressed this”. Q: You’re now close to the network coverage you want, but will those remaining dealerships all look and feel the same in this brave new world? A: “Some will, some might not. We want coverage, but we also have to be flexible in our thinking so that the investment required matches the opportunity available. In some locations, we may not need a full dealership; we could have a more creative solution. Retail models will change. But again, that’s in conjunction with our investors, because they’re all big investments. So you can’t change them overnight”. Q: Is the number and location of retailers a moving situation? A: Realistically, yes. But any chances won’t be made overnight. We’ve arrived where we are today by working with our expert operators in their chosen territories, and no matter how agile we want to be, it will be with their concerns uppermost in our minds”. Q: Can you imagine more dealers in bigger retail spaces? Or more multi-franchise dealerships? A: “Big shopping malls are an expensive investment for a brand of our size when really what we want to do is reduce the costs for our retailers and make them more efficient. “In contrast, multi-franchise is interesting for that very reason: it’s a great way of getting our cars on the radar of buyers who may otherwise miss us. “Then there are other ideas; the ‘super test drive’ concept of taking cars to an area where there aren’t dealers nearby to let customers try cars, or running service-only sites, or service and used car sites. One of the advantages of being a smaller brand is that our retail partners are often representing bigger manufacturers too. We get quite a good inside line on what’s being tried, what’s working and what’s not. We can be agile without the need to experiment quite so aggressively”. Q: Do these chances make it more favourable to work with bigger dealer groups? A: “It’s not a direction we’re consciously pursuing, no. Our mix today is 2 public companies, some larger groups, some smaller operators, and the priority above all else is having the right relationship with the decision-makers and alignment of our views on how to give the partnership longevity and the right aspirations. The size of the group doesn’t dictate these things. As I sit here today, and having spent the past 5 or 6 years shaping the group, I believe we have 95% of the right partners. That leaves the door open for the right investors no matter their size, but I also have to say that we’re very happy with the ones we have”. Q: Where does e-commerce fit into that model? A: “It’s an interesting provocation, because the job of the answer is not to add anything in that’s confusing for the customer. Our retailers already have some really strong e-commerce solutions, then there are some improving ones from OEMs. But the biggest challenge of all is really about how the customer wants to use online in their buying journey. The answer to that will vary from customer to customer, of course. The majority likely want to do some online research and then come into a dealership. But some will want to complete the journey from end to end online. Whatever their entry or exit point, we have to make it simple and seamless. That’s our bigger challenge. The goal is instant gratification for the customer. Whatever they came to do, we need to let them do it. We don’t have the answer for that yet, but we do believe we’re getting there”. Q: Ultimately, despite your focus on profit, you must have ambitions to grow volume again? A: “Well, our fall has been in the context of the pandemic and supply shortages, so of course we want more. But we will not grow by any means. The days of high sales may be gone, but the ambition of stabilizing at 30 of 40 percent is there, yes. But some of that will come from new models. Today we have 4.5 models, if you count the E as the half. We have clear ambitions to grow in line with the cars we offer in each segment, and we’ve already announced some future plans that look exciting. We aren’t letting go of what we’ve achieved through this process of shifting away from volume targets. In simple terms, I’d rather sell fewer cars at €500 of profit each than twice as much at €100 of profit. We need a balance of value and volume to protect residuals, too. And I like the agility we now have. It allows us to have closer relationships with our dealers and customers, so I would agree that the growth will come from new or refreshed model lines, not a switch to pushing volumes again. And of course we have new models coming”. Q: That includes an acceleration of your electrification plans. Have you been too slow to market with fully electric cars? A: “I don’t think so. I’m not sure electric cars have made a lot of financial sense up to this point, and our phasing out of diesel and pure-combustion-engined cars to a hybrid line-up has given customers access to the technology they want. “Of course, the Honda E has been a statement car. It has been an incredible halo model for the brand. We’re not ignoring full electrification, but the timing has to be right and the execution to Honda’s values. We know there’s more coming, and the Honda electric SUV is an exciting starting point for that expansion from next year. Our ramp-up is as ambitious or more so than anyone’s, and I think our timing is spot on”. Q: Can you finish that transition by 2030? JMS: “Well, first of all, we have to know what we’re aiming at, and that means getting a clear definition of what hybrid means through to 2035. But beyond that detail, the answer is quite simply that we have to be ready”. +++

+++ SPEED LIMITERS could be fitted to all newly manufactured cars following a controversial EU ruling. It means the possibility of speeding drivers having their car’s engine power reduced or having warning alarms going off. Such systems would be based on “intelligent speed assistance”, which uses GPS location data and cameras to identify whether a vehicle is travelling within the legal speed limit. If the system is adopted, drivers will be able to deactivate it, but they will have to do so every time they start their car. Although the rules enabling the technology were passed by the EU, the idea has come under fire from certain political groups: “This will completely destroy the luxury car market, and I think there are so many aspects of the anti-driver campaign now that are coming to the fore. “This is just more Big Brother in your cockpit. We’ll see more of this if we go up the route of road pricing. I don’t think people have thought of the freedom aspects of all of this”. +++

+++ STELLANTIS on Tuesday said it was suspending production at its Russian plant due to logistical difficulties and sanctions imposed on Moscow. The world’s 4th largest automaker, which produced and sold the Peugeot, Citroёn, Opel, Jeep, and Fiat brands in Russia, has just 1% of the country’s car market. It runs a van-making plant in Kaluga, around 200 kilometres southeast of Moscow, co-owned with Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi, which halted production at the facility earlier this month. “Given the rapid daily increase in cross sanctions and logistical difficulties, Stellantis has suspended its manufacturing operations in Kaluga to ensure full compliance with all cross sanctions and to protect its employees”, Stellantis said in a statement. The plant employs 2.700 people. The company will continue to pay salaries through a local downtime scheme and by using anticipated vacation periods, Stellantis told. It said it did not know how long the stoppage would last, adding that its priority was its staff and the return of peace. Stellantis had already suspended all exports and imports of vehicles with Russia, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, moving production to western Europe. It had also said it was freezing plans for more investments in the country. Van production in Kaluga had remained just for the local market. Scores of foreign companies have announced temporary shutdowns of stores and factories in Russia or said they were leaving the country for good since Russia began what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24. Stellantis chief executive Carlos Tavares in late March said the group would have to close the Kaluga plant shortly as it was running out of parts. Separately on Tuesday, General Motors said it was extending its suspension of business in Russia due to the conflict and international sanctions. The U.S. automaker, which initially suspended imports into Russia and commercial activity on February 28, said it was laying off most of its 66 employees and providing them with separation packages. GM does not have plants in Russia and only sold about 3.000 vehicles annually there prior to the suspension. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN has revealed plans to update the MEB platform, targeting increased range, faster charging times and higher performance for future cars using the brand’s all-electric vehicle architecture. Confirmed in a presentation to attendees at the UBS Paris Electric Car Day, a slide within the presentation referred to ‘enhancements’ that are coming for the MEB platform, more than likely due to coincide with the release of the firm’s next ID. badged model in 2023. A redesigned version of the MEB will support a battery and motor system capable of delivering 700 km on a single charge, while the maximum recharge rate of the system will be upped from 150 kW to 200 kW. Similarly, the maximum performance envelope of the platform will be increased beyond the standards set today by the likes of the ID.4 GTX, which uses a dual-motor electric powertrain producing 299 hp. That car does 0-100 kph in 6.3 seconds, but the benchmark sprint will be reduced to 5.5 seconds for cars using the updated MEB system. The range and performance aspects of the enhanced MEB offering will likely be as a result of new componentry and hardware, such as larger, denser battery packs beyond the 77 kWh maximum currently available. Similarly, the extra performance will be achieved through the use of more powerful electric motor systems. However, the increased charging rate could be as a result of software refinements and optimisation. It’s all but certain that the first car to use the enhanced MEB will be the production version of the ID. Vizzion, due in 2023. Volkswagen confirmed earlier in the year that a new concept of this vehicle, called ID. Aero, would make its debut at the now cancelled Beijing Motor Show, touting a range of up to 700 km. The technical improvements planned for the MEB platform will likely feed into facelifted versions of the ID.3 and ID.4, due around 2024, before being incorporated into the VW Group’s next-generation SSP platform, which will be introduced in 2026. +++

+++ VOLVO has anmounced it is investing in StoreDot, an Israeli company developing fast-charging battery technology for electric cars. StoreDot has previously said it is working on technology that could result in batteries that can charge up to 160 km of pure electric range in 5 minutes. The partnership could mean StoreDot’s technology could hit the public roads in Polestar and Volvo models by 2024. Volvo targets range of 1.000 km for EVs by 2030 Head of Volvo Cars Tech Fund, Alexander Petrofski, said “our investment in StoreDot perfectly fits that mindset, and their commitment to electrification and carbon-free mobility matches our own. We’re excited to make this a successful collaboration for both parties and work towards bringing this groundbreaking technology to the market”. StoreDot’s charging claim would make it the fastest charging battery in a car to date. StoreDot says that it has successfully produced 1.000 cells and mounted them in devices such as mobile phones, drones and a pure-electric moped. The 5-minute recharge time of the scooter was also showcased in 2019 with a live demonstration. To make the technology work in an electric car would require much higher-powered vehicle chargers than those currently in use today. However, StoreDot is yet to announce what output these new chargers would require to charge its new battery effectively. Volvo’s joint venture with StoreDot comes four months after the Swedish firm announced its collaboration with Northvolt for a €3 billion electric car battery research and development facility. +++

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