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Dacia Thrives as Europe’s Cheapest Cars Revive Romania

Viorel Oprea practically shudders as he recalls working at the Dacia auto factory in communist Romania. The plant in the town of Mioveni was a tumbledown collection of gray-concrete buildings surrounded by rusty barbed-wire fences. In the summer it was a sweatshop, and in the winter Oprea had to layer three coats to stay warm.

“It’s like we’ve gone from hell to heaven,” the 52-year-old maintenance operator said, gesturing back to the glistening white building behind him. The factory is bright and spotless, air-conditioned in the summer and warm enough in the winter that workers sport shirtsleeves on even the coldest days. “Back then we worked in cold, dirt, dust and mud,” Oprea said as he left the plant after the morning shift. “Now it’s like a pharmacy.”