The Odyssey of (Dacia) Spring

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Source:

Gerpisa colloquium, Detroit (2022)

Abstract:

In 1991, when the MIT bestseller "The Machine that Changed the World" came out, the automotive industry was booming, the automobile had been embraced by customers around the world and had helped shape the contemporary world. Thirty years later, the landscape has changed: despite several major crises, the market has certainly grown worldwide, but the success has somehow turned in on itself. It is because the car is a central object in our societies that public authorities are increasingly seeking to include its development trajectory in political strategies, whether environmental or for economic development and employment.

Under the pressure of increasingly stringent regulations, electrification is no longer an option and all the world's carmakers are committed to it, with colossal investments at stake. Without significant subsidies, or without a strict ban on thermal vehicles, the electric vehicle would not develop. It is public policies that create the conditions for an electrified vehicle market. An analysis of these policies is therefore essential to understand manufacturers' strategies in this area. What are the differences between these policies? Do they introduce regional competitive advantages? How do companies in the globalized automotive sector adapt or take advantage of these differences?
Beyond the speeches and policies stamped CSR, how do companies integrate this intrusion of societal issues and political powers into their innovation strategies? How does the intervention of political and administrative actors translate into the management of the resulting projects? How does this fundamentally globalized industry integrate the increasingly precise strategies of the countries whose markets they want to conquer?

This book provides answers to these questions in the light of an emblematic case: the development, deemed impossible, of an electric and accessible vehicle, which has nevertheless been marketed since 2021 in Europe under the name Spring within the Dacia range. The Spring project, which brings together a French company allied with a Japanese company, a Chinese partner, an earlier Indian project, which was developed in China for the local market and is now being rolled out in Europe, is a new experience in several ways:

(1) Spring was developed in a cooperation between Renault, Nissan and DongFeng Motors, a Chinese automotive giant: what were the benefits and problems of this cooperation?
(2) Spring is a hybridization of two lines in which Renault has been a pioneer: that of "accessible" cars (Logan, Duster, Sandero) and that of electric vehicles. While the electric car is supposed to be expensive, Spring is a "real" electric car sold in China at 7000-8000 euros and in Europe at 17000 euros (before application of purchase subsidies) ... How did this hybridization work to achieve this economic feat?
(3) Finally, the Spring project took place in a period of organizational disruption and strategic uncertainty for the company following the arrest of C.Ghosn in Japan in November 2018 and the death of its intransigent program director, G.Détourbet. What were the sources of resilience for this innovative project in an unstable and uncertain market context?

The book is organized in two parts. The first part analyzes the history of the project, from its strategic genesis to its current commercial deployment on the Chinese and European markets under the name Dacia Spring. The second part proposes 6 lessons to be learned from this project:

(1) A lesson in strategy that shows the complexity of international growth trajectories.
(2) A lesson in innovation management that shows how to reconcile adaptation to local socio-political contexts with the global deployment of innovation, an imperative in today's unstable and fragmented context.
(3) A lesson in project management that analyzes how to succeed in the a priori impossible challenge of a design within an alliance between five partners from four different countries.
(4) A lesson in innovation that demonstrates that electrification of mobility can be combined with affordability.
(5) A lesson in public policy, which shows the major role played by administrations in the technological trajectories of companies and therefore the central issues of industrial policies in the competition between Europe and China in particular.
(6) A lesson in intrapreneurship that shows that the start-up is not the only context where it is possible to try and live adventures

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