Brief Ride – Dacia Lodgy

A flying trip to Barcelona held an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

1523878860_LODGY1 cars4rent
Ain’t exactly pretty, ain’t exactly small … but you can tell she’s got it all! (Source: cars4rent)

I had the pleasure of a taxi ride from Barcelona Airport to the CCIB conference centre on the seafront. The driver was very capable, making smooth but very pacey progress, but what really impressed me was the vehicle.

I am (or was) a Dacia virgin and am now a convert. The Lodgy to which I was exposed was a revelation.

Yes, the interior was relentlessly charcoal in hue. Yes, the plastics were relentlessly hard. Yes, the interior design was old-school and full of old bits from earlier generation Renaults. Yes, the overall impression was that the interior had not really been styled, or designed, rather that it had been engineered. There are no surprise-and-delight touches, no frills and it’s all a bit plain – like a van.

However, I was impressed with so many things.

First, the car was super spacious – with an enormous boot and loads of leg and head room. Also, in spite of the dark trim, the big windows mean that it’s airy and possessed of decent visibility.

Lodgy-Stepway-interior
Barbeque on the beach anyone? There’s enough charcoal to burn in here … (Source: Dacia)

Second, the ride was great. I’ve just posted a piece (which I started writing just before I left from Barcelona) on the C4 Cactus and praised its ride, but this was almost as good and felt like a proper old-school Renault. I know that the roads in Spain are very good, much better than the average stretch of tarmac in the UK, but the deftness of the damping and body control was a revelation. Nor did the car roll unduly as the driver catapulted us into corners.

So too was (third) the rolling refinement. The ride was quiet. Nothing rattled (build quality felt really tight). The engine (I could not tell whether it was petrol or diesel from the back seat – it was more likely the latter) was smooth and quiet.

The external styling is, again, functional, almost industrial to my eye. I quite like the rear lamps, which are a bit different. There are a couple of feature-lines over the front and rear wheel arches which I think I could rather do without. But its honest and quite charming, bringing to mind cars like the original Panda, the Kangoo and even (I think it’s the DLO) the Scenic.

Dacia-Lodgy
Nice lamps, I thought, and loads of space behind that hatch (Source: Gazeo.com)

To check that I was not being influenced by the overall feel-good of being in Barcelona, I had the chance to compare and contrast on the reverse trip with a Ford Torneo Connect, which is conceptually similar, I think.

The Ford is definitely more ‘normal’ and plush, and looks much like a previous generation Focus or Fiesta in terms of dashboard design – i.e. like an over-styled, oversized, mid-noughties Nokia. The Torneo also had that taut compliancy that I love about the chassis of most modern Fords.  However, in most objective ways, I did not feel the Ford was markedly superior to the Dacia, and, in some respects, I preferred the practical honesty of the Dacia.

The Lodgy also looks like it is quite remarkable value, although it does not seem to be for sale in the UK (anymore?), but the pricing I saw seemed to place it between £9k up to £15k. UK pricing for the Torneo Connect is between £21k and £25k.

As the French say, ‘CQFD’.

Author: S.V. Robinson

Life long interest in cars and the industry

25 thoughts on “Brief Ride – Dacia Lodgy”

  1. I really appreciate cars, like the Lodgy, that have a clearly defined purpose and are designed and engineered precisely to meet that purpose.

    I recently drove a Lexus NX 300h hybrid loan car for a couple of days while my Boxster was being serviced. While we had it, we visited my sister-in law and her husband, who have a touring caravan. They drive a first generation Kia Sorento, a body on frame SUV that is a decade old with a high mileage. It may be somewhat crude by modern standards, but everything still works perfectly, it’s as tight as a drum and is perfectly suited to its role as a family holdall and towing vehicle.

    The contrast with the Lexus was stark. The NX is, ostensibly, a similar vehicle, if considerably more upmarket and sophisticated than the Sorento. The hybrid power unit was quiet(‘ish) at low speeds but felt strained and gutless when accelerating, suggesting it would be quite unsuited to towing. The ride was quite poor: you felt every ridge and imperfection in the road surface, despite the soft suspension causing a lot of body roll through bends and roundabouts. The interior, while beautifully built, did not look like it would wear particularly well if exposed to the rigours of family use. Finally (and the real nail in the coffin) it used 3/8 of a tank of fuel in the 180 gently driven miles we covered, suggesting that the real world fuel economy is nothing special .

    So, what is the Lexus really For? A faux-SUV for wealthy retirees, rather than a proper family car, is my best guess. Incidentally, the Boxster, like the Lodgy and Sorento, is just perfect for its intended purpose.

  2. SV, in 2009 I was in the very same Barcelona for the first time and I took a ride from the airport to a narrow street close to the Rambla in a SEAT Alhambra.

    Everything you felt about the cabin, from the window area to the acres of room, I felt in the Alhambra, too. In the centre console, the driver had a wide array of gadgets, from a GPS to a CB radio and stuff I couldn’t really identify. I felt myself in the future. The ride was good but not particularly remarkable.

    Some years ago, I took a cab in Lisbon and it was a Lodgy. It crossed a crowd of drunk young people in Bairro Alto and took me to the hotel at 2 AM, safe and sound. But I can’t remember if the car was any good.

  3. The seats are comfortable too, also for longer travels? I often read about their poor comfort but never had an opportunity to verify these complaints.

    The nicely soft ride is a good example that Renault (Dacia) knows, what their customers are expecting from a Dacia. A soft suspension is good for the poor roads in many of their markets (like Romania or other markets in Eastern Europe) and it is also the right way for their typical buyers in Western Europe (families and older people).
    And being fair, the interior has the same quality like in a Mercedes…

    The outstanding success of Dacia must be hard for other car companies – they are not able to install a comparable brand (and i am sure, especially VW wants to built Dacias too).

    1. Hi Markus,

      Do you really think it’s because VW doesn’t know how to do it ? They had well publicised plans for a low cost range. The project ws called Budget car Project and was meant to reveal a 5000$ car in 2014/2015. They were even spyshots of the car. And then nothing, it’s as if the project stalled for some reason. They were again talks last year of them presenting a low cost car in China in 2018 but so far this year they’ve only presented their new local electric brand SOL on top of the regular launches.

    2. Markus – always good for a giggle. I wondered why you showed a Dacia interior until I noticed the cherished Mercedes star on the wheel boss. The rest of the forms (unexceptional) scream low cost.

    3. Perhaps, given the speculation of a putative collaboration and the possible trajectory of the Blue Oval (in Europe at least), Ford could become VW’s de-facto budget brand?

      I’ll get my coat…

    4. And what are the margins on a Sandero ? 2 euros ?

      Iam not fond of everything VW does but they’ve been selling the European best seller for 20+ years with margins that Dacia could only ever dream of and they makes tons of money as is in China so I can see why it might not have been a pressing matter for them. To me it may simply not be in their plans anymore, maybe the project was judged not profitable but I wouldn’t think it’s because they can’t pull it off.

    5. Good point about the seats. Most MPVs have hard and small rear To be honest, it wasn’t that sort of journey to make comfort an obvious quality! I did note that they looked a bit rudimentary, upright and flat in the back, but the fronts looked more plump and shapely, even coming with an armrest which folded down.

  4. Thanks SV for that. It´s always interesting how such an experience can reset your perceptions. I had such an experience in a Chevrolet Epica some years back. And recently I wondered how Dacia would do if they sold an E-class sized car with Lodgy trim and accessories: a back-to-basics big car for families. It might be end of the line for such ICE cars, so perhaps the point is utterly moot. Still, these simple cars have their appeal. I certainly really like the Epica´s could-not-care-less honesty (and its straigth six and its centre-point steering).
    Ford and VW are dancing a tango, yes, but I don´t see them being positioned anywhere but at the exit barring the commercials. That´s a wierd thing to write given the vast sales of the Fiesta and Focus yet. They have a set of succesful cars just there and the rest of the range seem to be also-rans. Amazing as none of them are bad and the S-Max is a properly plush car (it´s today´s Granada but obviously no-one else sees it like that except me).

    1. The Epica / Magnus was a relic of Bez’s tenure as VP Engineering at Daewoo, explaining the high-mindedness of certain elements of its technical specification. At least in western Europe the level of appointments didn’t seem particularly basic – remember Daewoo wanted to conquer the world and weren’t going to be shamed on features.

      in the mid ’70s Ford UK offered a black-bumpered baseline Granada equivalent of the Escort Popular under a ‘VFM’ (value for money) campaign. I don’t remember seeing many – it was probably showroom-bait.

      For truly basic big cars, the Australians led the world, with hose-down interiored Kingswoods, Falcons and Commodores. Over there in the early ’90s I could see the attraction, particularly as the price of a base Falcon or Commodore was about the same as a mid-spec Fiesta in the UK. Nowadays the Australians are as poncy as the rest of us – the best-seller Hilux is positively Brougham compared with ’90s sales leaders.

    2. Thanks Robertas for that. I didn´t know Bez (as in Ulrich) spent any time at Chevroletwoo. Goodness but I liked the steering of that car. I drove a CX briefly and that car´s steering also stood out. In fact, the cars that have made the greatest impact on me have been ones with noticeably good steering. The Lancia Trevi was another. It´s an area my XM is deficient in. Not that it is bad so much as bland. It does the job. The same goes for the clutch and accelerator pedal. Adequate and not much more. It´s a real pity as it rather undercuts the car´s striking looks, nice handling and genuinely handy package.

  5. On the Lodgy matter, is anyone else puzzled by RNMA’s capricious approach to the offering of Dacia products across their European sales territories?

    The UK and Ireland don’t get the Lodgy – it’s not a RHD matter as it’s sold (as a Renault) in India. Are they afraid of corporate anthropophagy? The Scenics are in decline, and the Sandero has consigned the Twingo to the margins.

    Talking of margins – Dacia’s is reported to be close to 10% in Europe as the majority of sales are to private customers rather than near-zero profit fleet offloads.

    Some new Sanderos have joined the campus fleet lately, and I’ve been using them when there are No Leaves Left. I’m not as captivated as SV was with the Lodgy, but I’ll keep my reservations for another time.

    1. Thanks for that point about margins. But.
      I have no idea of the numbers, alas, could it be that VW´s 4% margin (say) is absolutely bigger than Dacia´s 10%? I mean, the absolute number of euros is bigger for VW even though proportionally Dacia do better. If I make 150 quid on a 100 quid item, I have a good 50% surplus. But if Bob makes 200 quid on a 2000 quid deal, he´s simply made more money than me and is better off.
      If you want to make big money, spend big money and to hell with the percentage margin. The coffee seller might make 200% on his coffee but the Bentley salesman is making much more money in absolute terms.

  6. Margins are absolute, like market capitalisation. But accountancy is a creative art…

  7. Properly audited, margins should represent returns after costs with all overheads taken into account.

    Dacia sales were 655,235 in 2017 – not sure how “clean” that figure is given that many Dacias are sold as Renaults, Nissans, and Ladas.

    The Dacia division works from a very small component set, and manufactures mainly in new purpose-built factories in low-wage countries. It has also become a “trusted brand” in most territories – this was the key to the irresistible rise of Škoda under VAG.

    Returning to the margins matter, it was explained to me many years ago that the Japanese carmakers’ success was founded on preferring to make $10 per car selling a million cars, rather than making $100 per car selling 10,000.

    1. The Japanese approach to margins mentioned by Robertas would be pretty unusual. Most investors (i.e. shareholders) in public companies are driven, not by absolute returns but by the percentage return on capital. Put simply, they would prefer to receive £10 per annum on an investment of £100 (a 10% return) rather than £25 on an investment of £300 (an 8.33%) return. This is pretty obvious, in that the investor could simply invest their whole £300 in the first company and and earn £30.

      The complication is that most public companies are funded by a mixture of equity and debt. The lenders will earn a fixed percentage return on their loans (i.e. interest) and the shareholders will share what is left after interest is paid. Assuming the company is achieving a return higher than the interest rate, then the smaller the percentage of capital made up by equity, the higher the returns to the shareholders.

      Here are two examples:

      Company A has total capital of £1,000,000, made up of equity £200,000 and debt of £800,000. The interest rate on the debt is 5%, which is £40,000. The company makes a return on capital of 10%, which is £100,000. After the interest is paid, there is £60,000 left for the shareholders, a return of 30%. (i.e. £60,000/£200,000).

      Company B has total capital of £1,000,000, made up of equity £100,000 and debt of £900,000. The interest rate on the debt is 5%, which is £45,000. The company makes a return on capital of 10%, which is £100,000. After the interest is paid, there is £55,000 left for the shareholders, a return of 55%. (i.e. £55,000/£100,000).

      Comparing both companies above, it’s obvious that the smaller the percentage of capital made up by equity, the higher the percentage return to shareholders, provided the company is making is making a return on capital higher than the interest rate on its debt. This is known as leverage. The higher the leverage (the ratio of debt to equity) the higher the potential percentage return to shareholders.

      There is, of course, a catch. Say both companies have a bad year, and the return on capital falls to just 4%. Let’s see what happens to the shareholders:

      Company A has total capital of £1,000,000, made up of equity £200,000 and debt of £800,000. The interest rate on the debt is 5%, which is £40,000. The company makes a return on capital of 4%, which is £40,000. After the interest is paid, there is £zero left for the shareholders, a return of 0%. (i.e. £20,000/£200,000).

      Company B has total capital of £1,000,000, made up of equity £100,000 and debt of £900,000. The interest rate on the debt is 5%, which is £45,000. The company makes a return on capital of 4%, which is £40,000. After the interest is paid, there is -£5,000 left for the shareholders, a loss of 5%. (i.e. -£5,000/£100,000).

      So, the shareholders in Company A break even, whereas, the shareholders in Company B have to bear a 5% loss.

      Things get worse, and both companies only break even the next year:

      Company A has total capital of £1,000,000, made up of equity £200,000 and debt of £800,000. The interest rate on the debt is 5%, which is £40,000. The company makes a return on capital of 0%, which is £0. After the interest is paid, there is -£40,000 left for the shareholders, a loss of -20%. (i.e. -£40,000/£200,000).

      Company B has total capital of £1,000,000, made up of equity £100,000 and debt of £900,000. The interest rate on the debt is 5%, which is £45,000. The company makes a return on capital of 0%, which is £0. After the interest is paid, there is -£45,000 left for the shareholders, a loss of -45%. (i.e. -£45,000/£100,000).

      So, the more highly leveraged a company, the greater the percentage returns to shareholders in good times, but the greater the percentage loss in bad times. This is known as volatility. All other things being equal, it is preferable for shareholders to invest in lower leveraged companies for the same percentage return, as their future earnings will be less volatile.

      Richard, now to answer your question,

      “So making 100% on a one pound deal is better than 2% on a million pound deal?”

      Yes, because you could, theoretically, replicate the one pound deal a million times and earn 100% a million times over, rather than have your million pounds all tied up in a single deal yielding just 2%

      Here endeth the lesson…

    2. That’s a great explanation, Daniel. What do you do for a living, if I may ask?

      Your explanation also highlights why it is often wiser for an investor, and in particular a prospective investor to loof at Return on Equity (RoE) (or Return on Shareholder’s Funds (RoSF)) over time (through an economic cycle, ideally) as an indicator of to potential value of investing in a company. Of course, a healthy RoE can then drive a high price for shares in a company, which then makes the investment (potentially) less attractive.

  8. Thank you, S.V. I’m actually a (retired) electrician!

    That is true, but it was a mid-life career change when I decided to learn and gain formal qualifications in something that is actually useful, after twenty years so in investment banking.

    1. Lol! That’s brilliant! I salute your spirit in making such a switch – I’ve yet to find enough lead in my pencil to break away from Financial Services and do something more interesting instead … perhaps once I have both children safely ensconced at Uni I can feel more comfortable financially to so do.

  9. There’s a typo in the second Company A example above, where the return on capital is 4%. The parentheses at the end of the paragraph should, of course read:

    (i.e. £0/£200,000)

    Perhaps Richard might be kind enough to edit?

  10. S.V., I would thoroughly recommend it. Not having the responsibility of bringing up children, my partner and I were free to make the change once the mortgage was paid off and there was enough in the kitty to live comfortably. I fully realise that having two children totally changes the equation, having attended my nephew’s graduation last week and heard the sighs of relief from his parents as he was presented with his degree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.