Famous for their accessibility, Dacia vehicles are also known for the robustness of their elements. It’s not uncommon to see Logan and Duster vehicles with several thousand miles on the meter.
This fame is not the result of chance. The secrets of the Dacia’s longevity are kept safe in two laboratories at the Titu Technical Center, located 45 minutes northeast of Bucharest, Romania. There, the brand’s engineers test the quality and resistance of the interior and exterior materials of all models.
The Titu Technical Center is located near Bucharest. Opened in 2010, this ultra-modern complex is located in the heart of the Romanian countryside. With six hundred people, three hundred hectares and a network of outdoor test tracks, it has everything necessary to guarantee the quality of the new vehicles developed by Dacia. Its center houses two laboratories dedicated to the durability of materials where they are subjected to accelerated aging tests. In just a few weeks, years of life under various climatic conditions are simulated, the result of which in each sample of each material will be analyzed in detail by passionate experts. Welcome!
thousands of hours in the sun
We start the visit in the center of durability of polymers and fluids. Among the parts tested are, of course, those made of plastic. Manufactured and molded in many different ways, this material is an important component of the vehicle interior. From the dashboard to the gearbox to the doors, it’s everywhere! And of course, if it is not of good quality, a large part of the vehicle could deteriorate over time.
“But it is not only the passage of time that can affect the durability of materials. Exposure to extreme temperatures is a key factor that is especially important in Spain. We must guarantee that our plastics are capable of withstanding many hours under the Cadiz sun or thermal jumps of more than 20 degrees at certain times of the year”, says the After-Sales and Quality Director of Dacia Iberia, Fernando Vara.
In this laboratory, inaugurated in 2017, Nicoleta analyzes the impact that atmospheric conditions and the different uses can have on the appearance and quality of the pieces. For example, UV rays, heat and bad weather can cause whitening, discoloration or change the shine of the plastic.
Every day dozens of samples are placed in the laboratory tanks under UV for up to 3,000 hours. The pieces thus absorb radiation equivalent to several years of exposure to the sun. In addition, they spend several weeks in cabins where they are subjected to extreme temperature and humidity conditions ranging from -40° to +100°. The goal is to check resistance in all environments. At the end of these shock treatments, the pieces are analyzed and compared with a control sample without aging.
The appearance of the plastic is also threatened by the simple use of the vehicle. A bicycle, keys or a ring, for example, can also cause damage and leave lasting marks on the bodywork or on a part of the passenger compartment. To avoid this, all plastics suffer the onslaught of a “torture” instrument designed to simulate scratches. It is specifically a metal screw that is cruel to the sample and makes movements back and forth lengthwise and widthwise. Scratches, which are unavoidable, must remain superficial and not alter the properties of the plastic.
Over time, the pieces can also warp, wrinkle, and even break. Thus, in the laboratory of durability of polymers and fluids, a traction machine has the mission of stretching the plastic to test its resistance to breakage. Only materials that successfully pass all tests will be selected.
Titu houses another laboratory: the corrosion center, opened in 2015. There, all metal parts are carefully examined thanks to an accelerated corrosion chamber. On a new vehicle, the paint protects the metal. But an accident or a scratch that damages the paint to the metal leaves it exposed to corrosion.
In addition to small samples, entire parts such as the hood, tailgate, doors and dolly are also subjected to this test. Chrome and galvanized parts such as drums, brake discs, bolts and emblems are also checked. They are immersed in the corrosion chamber in extreme climatic conditions in which the temperature, humidity and even the composition of the air vary. Leaving this chamber, the corrosion around the scratches is analyzed thanks to a very precise dimensioning tool.
«In this way we will be able to guarantee the durability of our metal parts in the most aggressive environments. A vital factor in a country with thousands of kilometers of coastline where some of the cities with the largest fleet of vehicles are also located”, adds the After-Sales and Quality Director of Dacia Iberia, Fernando Vara.
In addition to the simulation of natural conditions, chemical products are used to reproduce the aggressions in the bodywork. With the help of another special tool adjacent to the corrosion chamber, the metallic elements are brought into contact with, for example, windshield washer fluid or a deicing saline solution.
To be able to see the rest of the evidence, you have to cross a corridor that leads to another room where gravel removal is carried out, a procedure whose name leaves little room for confusion. This method consists of projecting gravel at high pressure on a piece of metal to assess the damage caused to the bodywork. Painting, chrome plating, zinc plating, etc., all protective layers are evaluated to ensure the best quality for vehicles.
“After successfully passing this series of tests, the parts and materials are validated and can then be integrated into the new Dacia vehicles. At Dacia we conceive our vehicles to last and we reinforce them with a maintenance and verification program of control points with a single objective: to allow each owner to reach, why not, the million kilometers with their heads held high”, highlights the After Sales and Quality Director
Dacia Iberia, Fernando Vara.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.